The Immigration Can Gets Kicked Down The Road

ICE Detains And Deports Undocumented Immigrants From Arizona

Obama is delaying his executive order on immigration deportations until after the elections. Jonathan Cohn spells out the political logic of the move:

Vulnerable Democrats seeking reelection let the White House know, publicly and privately, that they feared an executive order would deal serious, maybe fatal, blows to their candidacies: While the ensuing debate would energize immigration reform supporters, particularly Latinos, it would also energize the conservative base. Given the political geography of the 2014 midterm elections, in which control of the Senate will depend on the ability of Democrats to hold seats in red states like Arkansas and North Carolina, the political downside seemed bigger than the political upside.

But Ezra Klein has a hard time squaring this political calculation with the White House’s former rhetoric:

This is the problem with the White House’s decision — and, to some degree, the way they’ve managed this whole issue. If these deportations are a crisis that merits deeply controversial, extra-congressional action, then it’s hard to countenance a politically motivated delay. If they’re not such a crisis that immediate action is needed, then why go around Congress in the first place?

Cillizza sees signs of political malpractice:

[W]hat Obama and his senior aides failed to account for — or underestimated — was the blowback from within his own party to a major executive action by an unpopular president on an extremely hot-button issue.  (Worth nothing: Obama’s approval numbers eroded steadily over the summer and into the early fall; his political standing today is weaker than it was when he pledged action on June 30.)  The move, it became clear, would have been seen as bigger than just immigration as well; it would have been cast (and was already being cast) by Republican candidates and strategists as simply the latest example — Obamacare being the big one — of federal government overreach.

This disconnect between the long-term legacy building prized by Obama and the near-term political concerns of many within his party is not new but, quite clearly, became a major point of tension.

Beutler is puzzled:

The political reasoning sounds incredibly straightforward. Most of the Senate Democrats running in tightly contested elections represent conservative states with low immigrant populations and deep hostility to “amnesty.” So why introduce more uncertainty into those campaigns, and potentially ignite a fire under the GOP base, when you could just as easily wait six weeks?

But it also seems suspiciously simple to me. That’s in part because I don’t entirely understand how much cover you buy for vulnerable Democrats if you put off the official announcement, but tell the press that the dreaded amnesty is coming just a few weeks later.

PM Carpenter is befuddled by the White House “political operation’s second-term bumbling”:

Now, everybody is pissed off. Immigration activists are screaming “betrayal” and “broken promise;” a major labor union is “deeply disheartened”; the nation’s most influential Spanish-language news anchor has denounced the delay as “the triumph of partisan politics”; Republicans are gleefully outraged; and Democrats are stuck with defending an executive action that never was, but still will be–“I’m going to act because it’s the right thing for the country,” said the president [Sunday] on “Meet the Press”–thus it might as well have been.

Gabriel Arana takes the president to task:

Given how long immigrants have had to wait for any sort of relief from the fear of deportation, another few weeks may seem like no big deal — that is, of course, if you’re not one of the tens of thousands of people who’ll be kicked out of the country while the president waits out the midterms.

But for many immigrant-rights supporters, the delay shows the president doesn’t understand the moral crisis at the heart of the immigration debate, in which those looking to escape poverty get branded as parasites, their children as “anchor babies.” Our dysfunctional immigration system has created a powerless class of millions of people; without the ability to vote or to advocate on behalf of themselves in public, they have no choice but to wait for our politicians to take sympathy. Lawmakers all “play politics,” but extending the suffering of this vulnerable population because it might save you a few votes at the ballot box is yet another sign you don’t fully consider them Americans.

How Tomasky sees this playing out:

Despite whatever acidic rhetoric Latino leaders are dishing out toward Obama today, I would expect that will change this fall. He’ll announce his unilateral moves on immigration after the election. The Republicans will boil with rage. In all likelihood, they’ll move to impeach. So then we’ll have the spectacle of one party—the party that has blocked the passage of an immigration bill in the first place—seeking to throw a president of the other party out of office for trying to do something on immigration that he wouldn’t have had to do if the first party hadn’t spent two years refusing to pass a bill. It’s pretty clear which side of that fence the vast majority of Latinos are going to come down on.

(Photo: A Honduran immigration detainee, his feet shackled and shoes laceless as a security precaution, boards a deportation flight in Mesa, Arizona to San Pedro Sula, Honduras on February 28, 2013. By John Moore/Getty Images)