He did it once before for the DREAMers in a cynical but effective bid to drum up Latino turnout before the election. Why wouldn’t he do it again ahead of the midterms, with Democrats desperate to rally their base to hold back a Republican tide? Remember, this is a guy willing to ignore key provisions of his own landmark health-care law, with not even a pretense of having the legal authority to do so, if it’ll help Democrats politically. According to O’s, he’s constitutionally empowered to Do Good For The People whenever he thinks Congress is dragging its feet too much. If that means imposing a mass moratorium on deportations, hey.
So, plan B in case immigration reform collapses in the House: De facto amnesty for illegals for the rest of Obama’s term. This is the amnesty crowd’s shot across the bow of House Republicans to warn them that if they don’t step up and pass something, Democrats via Obama will get all the credit for what happens next instead of just the vast, vast majority of it:
The idea behind the “other track” is to freeze the current undocumented population in place through an administrative order, give them work permits, and hope for a better deal under the next president, with the hope that he or she is a Democrat. It’s a significant gamble, but some advocates—particularly those outside of the Washington legislative bartering system—argue that it’s better than what they stand to see under the legislation being discussed now…
The Obama administration … has already flexed its muscle and shown that it is willing to exert authority to stop the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth through its deferred-action program announced last year. The immigrant community argues that there is no reason that this administrative authority cannot expand further to include other “low priority” candidates for deportation—i.e., parents of “Dreamers” or parents of children who are citizens because they were born here, people who are employed, people who are caregivers, and so on…
The same legal reasoning for not seeking deportation for unauthorized immigrants—there is no safety-related reason to do so—applies to other noncriminal aliens, immigration analysts argue. Politically, all President Obama needs is proof that Congress can’t get the job done. That could happen in a matter of months with the Republican-led House still unsure of how it will deal with the undocumented population. (To date, no legislation has surfaced in the House, although there is talk of a limited legalization program for undocumented children.)
The big political target for Democrats in doing isn’t the midterms, in fact. It’s 2016, when the end of Obama’s term will mean the potential cancellation of this policy if a Republican is elected. That’ll hand Hillary (or whoever the Democratic nominee is) a heavy bludgeon to use against the GOP on the stump in front of Latino audiences. Would, say, Marco Rubio vow as nominee to cancel the policy and resume deportations when he and the rest of the Republican leadership will be frantic to claw back some Latino votes from Democrats? The best you can hope for from a Republican under these circumstances is a procedural argument that says unilateral amnesty via executive order is wrong but amnesty passed through proper channels in Congress and then signed by the president is and must be a top priority upon taking office. Realistically, the only thing holding O back from doing it is the possibility that so many undecideds will be angered by it that it’ll backfire against Democrats in the midterms. How likely is that, though, given that the public on balance has been receptive to comprehensive reform? Did Obama suffer for his unilateral DREAM amnesty last year?
You’d better start thinking about this because, although a few House Republicans have started making noise about legalization during the recess, some purple-district Democrats have also started making noise against it. The House might not be able to pass anything, in which case it’s lights, camera, Obama. But what if they do pass something? Over at the Daily Caller, Mickey Kaus makes a provocative accusation: Stalwart border hawk Ted Cruz is making that more likely to happen than not.
Into this void stepped Cruz, who made a bold attempt to rouse a “grassroots army” for the cause of … defunding Obamacare. So instead of haranguing their members about unchecked immigration, hard core red-staters would harangue them about the Democrats’ health care plans. Cruz’s strategy had no hope of actually defunding Obamacare,. By attempting to shut down the government over the issue it had a much greater chance of reviving Democratic fortunes. (I thought Republicans had learned from the past two or three times this tactic failed).
And it might wind up giving us amnesty. Democrats are secretly delighted, of course: with the Tea Partiers distracted, fence-sitting Reps might have enough breathing room in the fall to sneak some kind of mass legalization through–maybe not a full “path to citizenship” for everyone, but Dems could go back and fix that later, once the millions of illegals had been given legal status. As an added pro-amnesty bonus, Cruz was helping to rehabilitate fellow defunder Rubio, giving the latter something to posture about once he became too terrified to even mention his deceptive immigration plan.
Instead of tea partiers rallying at town halls against amnesty, they’ll spend August rallying against funding ObamaCare. (Kaus also knocks Cruz for taking a subdued role in the Senate floor fight over immigration compared to someone like Jeff Sessions, something I’ve noted before too.) Let me play devil’s advocate, though: Since Cruz’s bid to defund ObamaCare looks like it’s going to fail (possibly without even gaining the 41 GOP votes needed for a filibuster) and that’ll end up angering the base, could some House Republicans be forced into a more hardline position on immigration in hopes of placating righties who are disappointed about O-Care? I take Kaus’s point about putting on a grassroots show during the August recess over immigration, but how much more evidence does the average House Republican need to know that voting for amnesty is a risky proposition in a red district? How many “Rubio’s star loses luster” stories have been written over the past two months because of what he did on immigration reform? Arguably, Cruz’s ObamaCare gambit amplifies the base’s immigration objections because it presents an omnibus case that the RINOs in D.C. are selling out conservatives on everything.