Immigration advocates to Obama: Go big on amnesty

You know the saying: Go big or go home. And we all know they’re not going home.

How does “unilateral legalization for all illegals” grab you?

[I]n the wake of Obama’s Monday Rose Garden speech vowing unilateral action, some reformers want the president to go far beyond a limited expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, to essentially legalize the millions of undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for work permits under the bill passed by the Senate last summer.

“The administration has unquestionable legal authority to provide all those who would qualify for citizenship under the bipartisan Senate Bill affirmative status with work authorization while making immigration enforcement more just,” Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO said Tuesday in a statement. “The administration should act boldly and without further delay.”…

[R]ecommendations include not only a broad expansion of DACA to include older immigrants, but also efforts to allow illegal immigrants enrolled in DACA to enlist in the military; to bar local governments from enforcing immigration law; and to permit more undocumented relatives of U.S. military members and veterans to remain in the country while they seek green cards.

In other words, he’s going to unilaterally enact a Senate bill that didn’t pass the House. But not the whole bill: It’d be bad enough as an affront to separation of powers if he snapped his fingers and declared the Gang of Eight’s plan de facto law, but at least you’d get some extra border security out of that. What liberals want is for him to ignore the security provisions in the GoE plan, which Republicans favor, and implement only the legalization stuff supported by Democrats. If he does that, he’ll have set the following precedent: When the president’s party offers its opponents a bad compromise with token concessions, the opposition can either swallow hard and accept or watch as the president yanks the concessions and implements the stuff his side wants anyway. Either you take what Democrats give you or you get nothing, by His Majesty’s command. It’s an offer you can’t refuse. If he tries that and gets away with it, after spending the past year warning amnesty fans that there’s only so much he can do on his own and that this is ultimately a job for Congress, it’s the end of legislative independence. And of course, Democratic legislators like Steny Hoyer and Bob Menendez are perfectly happy about it. For now.

How would he go about legalizing people through executive action? BuzzFeed has a hint:

Chief among the executive actions would be an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), beyond undocumented youth known as DREAMers who received it initially, for undocumented immigrants who are low-priority American workers and those who would benefit from the Senate’s immigration reform bill.

The memo also calls for an expansion of “parole in place” to more undocumented immigrants, which would temporarily protect them from removal and provide them the ability to work in the country. The lawmakers give the example of a deferred action recipient who marries a U.S. citizen and doesn’t have to leave the country to apply for a green card.

Is it temporary, though? Which candidates in the 2016 GOP field would risk alienating Latinos right out of the chute as president by rescinding Obama’s “temporary” legalization and reinstating deportations? Not even President Cruz would want to risk having his first year or two in office sidetracked with a political war over immigration when he’s busy trying to put his broader agenda in place. The best-case scenario if Obama institutes a “temporary” mass amnesty is that it’d encourage his Republican successor to strike a deal quickly with Congress on comprehensive reform once in office. Once Congress has formally ratified the idea of legalization, then the president could lift O’s order secure in the knowledge that he’d merely be sharing blame with the legislature going forward. The only question mark here, if/when Obama finally makes his move, is the timing. Does he do it this year, when the effect at the polls might be muted (or even backfire by inflaming righties), or does he wait until next year with an eye to helping Democrats with Latino turnout in 2016? Will his base even let him wait at this point?

Here’s Luis Gutierrez, who thought hard about all this and concluded that “the antidote for do-nothingism is doing something,” looking ahead to how our secular pope might “heal” the nation by taking a dump on separation of powers. Exit question: If Obama had the power to grant mass amnesties all along, why’d he seek congressional authorization in the first place? In theory he wants legislation instead of an executive order because an order can be rescinded by the next president whereas legislation can’t be, but in practice that doesn’t really make sense. For one thing, given the precedents Obama’s set in ignoring parts of ObamaCare, legislation isn’t nearly as binding as it used to be — even on the guy who signed it into law. Also, it can’t be that whether an action taken by the president is appropriate or not depends on how temporary it is. If O issued an executive order nationalizing the banks for the rest of his term, the fact that President Cruz could lift it in 2017 doesn’t mean it’s copacetic now. Presumably, Obama went to Congress on amnesty in the first place not because he preferred to but because he thought, correctly, that wholesale rewrites of America’s immigration policy must be done by the legislature. He seems to have changed his mind at some point. How come?