Obama to faith leaders: I have no plans for an executive amnesty on immigration

Must be hard for O to suppress a laugh when he’s meeting with pro-amnesty social conservatives, knowing how this issue is going to play out at the polls for the social-con agenda in the years ahead. Same with pro-amnesty libertarians, I’d imagine.

Anyway, I think he’s telling the truth here. And not just in a weaselly “I have no plans right now but might have them five minutes from now” kind of way.

President Obama has no plans to enact unilateral immigration overhaul by executive action, faith leaders from across the country said Obama told them today…

Obama had asked the director of Homeland Security to look at ways to reduce the number of people deported for entering the United States without documentation. But White House press secretary Jay Carney says that is different from implementing immigration overhaul on his own…

“While his Administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress,” Obama emphasized, according to the statement.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago when Democratic immigration advocates emerged from a meeting with O claiming that he promised to act on deportations within three months if nothing’s passed Congress. He will do that, I think; he’s got to throw them some kind of bone now that they’re calling him the “deporter-in-chief” (which, of course, is a lie). But there’s a huge difference between tweaking deportation policy to spare a few thousand people who’d otherwise be removed and declaring a mass moratorium on removals that would give de facto legal status to the many millions of illegals already here. He won’t do that, for reasons already explained. But if you don’t trust me, trust Mickey Kaus:

It’s not going to happen. Why? 1) It won’t help Democrats that much in the 2014 elections (key Senate races, for example, are mostly not in Latino-heavy states) and might even motivate the GOP base; 2) It would lower the chances of getting some legislative amnesty passed before the end of the current Congressional term. Legislative amnesty’s not dead, and even if it were Obama would probably be reluctant to give up on it. There’s always the lame duck session.

I agree with WaPo‘s Greg Sargent that amnesty backers are increasingly realizing that it may be now or never for legislative action–in part because the “comprehensivist” coalition has begun to splinter, in part because it would be difficult for the GOP establishment to pass an amnesty bill in 2015 or 2016 without sinking the presidential candidacy of what may be their last, best horse in the race, Marco Rubio. But the desperation runs on both sides of the aisle–affecting Democratic amnesty backers (including maybe Sargent) as well as GOP businessmen scared of tight labor markets, GOP strategists whose seemingly only strategy is to “get right” with Latinos, and the GOP House leaders who love both groups.

In particular, it’s hard to believe that, after confidently predicting a legislative win this term, Democrats and ethnic activists are now content to see their dream slip away until at least 2017, when their coalition may have splintered further.

Executive amnesty is the nuclear option, something Obama will resort to only when he’s fully convinced that immigration reform is dead in the House for the rest of his term. It isn’t. Republicans might not agree to the sort of omnibus reform bill lefties want but they’ll agree to something before the next presidential election to woo Latinos, be it a DREAM amnesty or something more. If O goes nuclear now, the upset on the right will be such that (a) Boehner won’t dare touch reform again and (b) Republican turnout in November might be even greater than Democrats fear, producing a total rout. Better for the White House to play it safe for now, do something modest on deportations, and give Boehner another 12-18 months to see if he can make something happen. Once the midterms have passed and Democrats no longer have to worry as much about GOP turnout, then they can play hardball. Frankly, I’ll be shocked if we *don’t* see an Obama executive amnesty either next year or in 2016 in the name of turning out Latinos for the next presidential election. I wonder if Boehner’s worried about that too and planning for a new immigration push first thing next year, to beat O to the punch before he blows up immigration reform with a unilateral measure. What’s the reason for Obama not to do it once the midterms are over?

One nitpick about Kaus’s argument, though: Why would having the GOP pass amnesty next year necessarily be disastrous for Rubio? If Rubio decides this year he’s running, he’ll stay far away from the next immigration reform effort. The Gang of Eight bill that he quarterbacked will be officially dead once this congressional session ends so he won’t be stuck defending that anymore if he doesn’t want to. What I expect, in fact, is that once Obama makes a move this year to reduce deportations, Rubio will seize it as an excuse to throw up his hands and declare that reform is pointless as long as O’s in charge. He’s now come to realize, he’ll say, that the current president simply can’t be trusted to enforce the laws responsibly and therefore reform should be postponed until 2017 at the earliest. (Never mind that in the past Rubio’s used Obama’s unilateralism as a reason for why Congress should hurry up and pass reform right away.) That’ll ease some fears on the right about him, no matter what the House ends up doing.

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