Republicans have made it very clear that if Obama goes forward, it would be the equivalent of giving the middle finger to their incoming majority — and, by extension, the American public, which helped the GOP gain seats in the House and Senate on Nov. 4.
You get the idea. Republicans ain’t happy — and they are going to get a lot less happy over the next week or so. No matter what congressional response McConnell and Boehner craft — and they are undoubtedly looking at their options right now — the most obvious and predictable outcome of Obama’s move on immigration is that any hope of bipartisanship on much of anything in the 114th Congress that will convene in January is probably now out of the question.
Obama knows that. And it would seem he doesn’t care. Or rather, he has made the calculation that the chances of genuine bipartisanship on virtually anything was so low in the first place that it didn’t make sense to not do what he believes is the right thing. The post-grand-bargain-collapse version of Obama is far less willing to extend his hand to Republicans — having, in his estimation, had it bitten so many times before. He views the “now the well is poisoned” point being made by Republicans as laughable.
“It doesn’t solve the problem. But look, we’re having those discussions… We’re going to continue to meet about this. I know the House leaders are talking about, the Senate leaders are talking about it,” said South Dakota Republican John Thune, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, on “Fox News Sunday”.
“Republicans are looking at different options about how best to respond to the president’s unilateral action, which many people believe is unconstitutional, unlawful action on this particular issue.”
Obama is expected to announce a series of executive actions on immigration issues before the end of the year, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said on Saturday.
Thune and Republican Representative Tom Cole said Obama’s expected use of executive power on the issue was what fueled partisanship and lack of cooperation.
“I think the president wants a fight. I think he’s actually trying to bait us into doing some of these extreme things that have been suggested. I don’t think we will,” Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole said on ABC’s “This Week”.
But the White House is planning a quick start, according to officials familiar with the plans. It is breaking eligible immigrants into staggered groups, some of which will begin applying for deportation deferrals within a few months. If that happens, Republicans will have to decide whether to shut down programs that are already bringing immigrants out from underground and giving their families relief from the constant threat of separation.
According to administration officials familiar with the plans, the president will give deportation deferrals and work permits to people in the country illegally whose children are American citizens or legal permanent residents, if the parents have lived here for at least five years. As many as 3.3 million immigrants could be eligible.
Officials are hoping that by centering the reprieve program on American citizens and legal residents, they will blunt some Republican opposition. Americans cannot be deported from their own country, and deportations of their parents have left many children stranded here, often with serious consequences for their social progress.
Steven Zimmer, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District board, said the district is borrowing on the experience of 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signed a sweeping immigration reform law that granted legal status to about 3 million immigrants not legally in the U.S., as well as on recent work helping young people apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA.
“The challenge sometimes with DACA and whatever the guidelines for executive action is that there has been so much fear amongst families that are undocumented or have mixed documented status in their families,” Zimmer said. “When you have fear of being found you don’t like to sign things. When we have this executive action, the proof is what you signed,” said Zimmer, explaining families would need documents to show they have been here for years.
Often parents sign forms for education requirements, lunch programs, vaccinations or even permission slips for field trips. Those forms can help families show they were in the country at a certain time.
Zimmer said help from schools is particularly important in districts such as his, which is not in the heart of Los Angeles’ Hispanic community yet has many families from Oaxaca, Mexico. There is not as much of an immigrant support network in close proximity to them as if they lived in other parts of the city, he said.
“The Oregon measure tells you these measures are not easy or simple,” said Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute. “The political cost may be significant, even in blue states.”
The state law had seemed to be popular. It easily passed last year with bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled Legislature and was signed Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was re-elected Nov. 4.
Opponents barely gathered enough signatures to put the repeal question on the ballot. Immigrant rights groups outspent their opponents 10-1.
Still, the measure failed in every county but the state’s most liberal one, Multnomah, home to Portland. Even there it trailed significantly behind other Democratic candidates and causes.
“It was really the epitome of a grassroots effort,” said Cynthia Kendoll, one of the activists who led the campaign against licenses. “There’s such a disconnect between what people really want and what’s happening.”
Obama made his postelection pledge on immigration despite the drubbing that Democrats took across the country. He said he had to act because Congress has deadlocked on immigration for years.
Joe Guzzardi of Californians for Population Stabilization calls immigrant amnesty of any kind “just a terrible idea.” He worries about the economic harm of putting millions of additional legally protected workers into a stressed job market.
“That will have a negative effect on underskilled workers, minority workers and workers with less than a college education,” said Guzzardi, who added that no one is sure whether Obama is “bluffing or playing hardball to get something to his desk.”
In June 2013, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that offered a path to citizenship for the undocumented, but also called for strong border security measures and continued deportation of immigrants with criminal records. But tea party conservatives prevented the Republican-controlled House from considering a similar bill.
Guzzardi is glad the House balked.
“Enforcement at the border has to come first,” he said. “And there must also be internal enforcement. This is an eternal cycle, pushed by illegal immigrant lobbyists, with no end in sight.”