The President used his weekly remarks to inform everyone that he is celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month in June and to issue a number of cheerful reminders about how we are a nation of immigrants. He’s using the White House social media platform to show us some of the truly inspirational stories of our diverse nation, such as that of people like Ann Dermody from Alexandria, Virginia. Obama notes that she came here legally, worked hard, played by the rules and dreamed of becoming a citizen. And now she is. Congratulations to Ms. Dermody are due, particularly because that’s how you’re supposed to do it.
But the President didn’t drop things there. He went on to note how hard he’s worked to help immigrants (of all kinds… not just the legal ones) and how terrible the Republicans are for clinging to quaint notions such as upholding the law. Andrew Malcolm, at IBD, brings us the full text of the President’s remarks as he does each weekend, and a few of the latter comments stand out in particular.
That’s why, in the meantime, I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make our immigration system more just and more fair. Last fall, I took action to provide more resources for border security; focus enforcement on the real threats to our security; modernize the legal immigration system for workers, employers, and students; and bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can get right with the law. Some folks are still fighting against these actions. I’m going to keep fighting for them. Because the law is on our side. It’s the right thing to do. And it will make America stronger.
Barack Obama keeps insisting that he’s “enhanced border security” when addressing this subject, but that leads to some obvious confusion. It’s true that deportations were up during his tenure, but the guidance being given to ICE and the Border Patrol in general has devolved into mixed messages at best. As we covered in the past, the White House issued guidelines to border enforcement which broke down illegals into three categories, highlighting the known felons and violent offenders at the top of the list. As a matter of enforcement priorities, that’s not a bad idea on the surface because you certainly want to get the worst of the worst out the door as quickly as possible. But at the same time, the administration went further, passively discouraging law enforcement from pursuing the other two categories. That came to a head when one congressman went so far as to begin issuing cards instructing illegals on how to try to intimidate their way out of custody if ICE happened upon them. They were clearly meant to send a message which might persuade officers into believing they would be in trouble if they bring in low priority criminals contrary to the wishes of the White House.
When you combine all of these factors, Barack Obama seems to be taking the idea of a melting pot to a whole new level. It’s an old term which dates back to well before the founding of this country, but it’s use in modern parlance was probably solidified after the release of Israel Zangwill’s play by the same name around the turn of the twentieth century. It was a time well after the free range, wild west (and wild east for that matter) era of American expansion when people seeking a new land were flooding onto our shores and, as a nation, we had begun to awaken to the need to better document, track and control just who was coming and going.
Those efforts only increased over time. Yes, we are a nation where most of us can point back to someone who arrived here from elsewhere, so in that sense we are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws and we impress that on everyone who wishes to join us. Has the President taken a moment to read the oath that all naturalized citizens must recite? It begins like this:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same
Yes, we are a nation of immigrants and, at the same time a nation of laws. And those who come here while knowingly breaking those laws are not melting into the pot. They are stirring it up and spreading the fire.
I’m aware that this antiquated opinion is becoming less and less common these days. The President is clearly playing to a populist thirst around the country. As Doug Mataconis notes at Outside the Beltway, recent polls show that only old dinosaurs worry about things like immigration laws.
Broadly, this poll is consistent with surveys that we’ve seen in the past that show that a majority of Americans, and even a majority of Republicans, support a path to citizenship and generally have a positive view of immigration. More recent polling has shown that most Americans support the temporary deportation relief that the President unveiled last November, although they are less supportive of the manner in which he implemented the policy. The obvious conclusion this leads to, of course, is that many Republican politicians, including many candidates for President, are out of step with the nation as a whole, and even most self-identified Republicans, to the extent they have taken positions on immigration that are far more restrictive than what the public as a whole supports.
Seeing numbers like these I am keenly aware that this is a battle we may well lose. You’d have to be fairly far gone from reality to deny the possibility at the least. But everyone participating in these polls and voting in the elections which will determine who makes and enforces the rules still need to ask themselves that same question. Are we still a nation of laws? Or doesn’t that really matter anymore?