So, the “framing” economic speech yesterday was a bust — yeah, they’re going to need us to move away from that ol’ chestnut pretty quickly — so here comes the next big talking point in the Obama-campaign wheelhouse.
President Obama has decided that the Homeland Security Department will no longer deport younger illegal immigrants who haven’t broken the law, and will instead issue them work permits.
The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.
The policy change, described to The Associated Press by two senior administration officials, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was to announce the new policy Friday, one week before President Barack Obama plans to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney is scheduled to speak to the group on Thursday.
Updates to follow…
Update: At least as far as the Latino community is concerned (and opinion abounds on the electoral significance of Latinos as a voting group, and whether they really vote so monolithically), this is going to present a stiff challenge for Romney’s campaign. As ABC points out:
The Obama administration is likely to deny that politics played a role in the announcement, but the timing is ideal for the president’s reelection campaign. In the GOP primary, Mitt Romney adopted strictly conservative positions against illegal immigration in his effort to woo right-wing voters. He backs a strong fence along the border with Mexico, opposes most amnesty and boasts of his move as Massachusetts governor to deny in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. …
Obama’s announcement today is likely to curry favor with Hispanics, a key growing voting bloc who could determine the winner in November in important states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada. The president currently beats Romney among Hispanics in polls, but most Latinos say they disapprove of his deportation policy.
Deportation rates under President Obama have actually been relatively high — a point about which many Latino voters and immigration advocates have been displeased. This could be a crucial appeasement-move that will inspire Latinos to get to polls in November.
Can President Obama even do this without Congressional approval? I’m not sure, but then again, it hardly matters. If he can, great; if he can’t, great: It’s just another jab he can aim at an “obstructionist,” “do-nothing” Congress.
Update (Ed): So …. he’s going to hand out hundreds of thousands of work permits when unemployment is at 8.2% nominal, 14.8% U-6, and the civilian participation rate is near the 30-year low Obama set last month (now 63.8%)? The only thing this accomplishes is driving the labor rate further downward and the unemployment rate further upward. Work permits make sense when you’re creating jobs, but not when jobs are scarce. I’m not sure that’s going to endear Obama to unions and blue-collar voters struggling to find work already.
Update (back to Erika): A calculated move to steal some of Sen. Marco Rubio’s alternative-DREAM-Act thunder? It’s widely known that Sen. Rubio has been crafting legislation that would give visas to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children if they attend college or join the military, though it would not provide legal permanent residency — and President Obama’s plan sounds pretty darn similar. Plenty of Republicans aren’t exactly thanking Rubio for his upcoming proposal, but as a tea-party rockstar with Hispanic roots, Rubio is a major threat to Democrats’ claim that they’re the best political party for Latinos’ interests. Team Obama definitely needed to get out in front on this one.
Update: Here are some immediate reactions from our Congresspeople concerning the Obama campaign’s — er, sorry, I mean, the White House’s — newest immigration policy.
Rep. Allen West, R-Florida
“This is yet another example of executive branch overreach. We have a legislative process that ensures representative governance by the consent of the American people. This action should be crafted into legislation, debated in committee and brought before the House and Senate for vote, with accordance of our Constitutional Republic way. Secretary Napolitano is an unelected administrative bureaucrat who does not have the right to make governing decisions for this country. It is apparent that the goal of the Obama administration is not to govern, but rule by edict. This again is a reflection of the desperation of President Obama and his liberal progressive disciples as November draws nearer. …
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey
“For all the young people who call this country their home but have been unable to fulfill their dreams, I am profoundly grateful to the President and the Administration for suspending the deportation of Dreamers. For these young men and women who want to become doctors, teachers, police officers and soldiers, this announcement will change their lives forever.”
Update: Let Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano be clear: This is not to be confused with amnesty.
“A grant of deferred action is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” Napolitano told reporters. “It is an exercise of discretion.”
Update: Sen. Rubio responded by saying that the content of Obama’s proposal is “welcome news,” but was quick to decry the manner of it:
“Today’s announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer, but it is a short term answer to a long term problem,” the Cuban American Rubio said in a statement. “And by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long term one.”