While I was traveling back from the Right Online conference in Las Vegas yesterday, I saw a number of Twitter reactions to David Plouffe’s appearance on CNN’s State of the Union yesterday, and none of them particularly complimentary. Candy Crowley grilled Plouffe on the rule change at the Department of Homeland Security that curtails deportations and makes work permits available to illegal immigrants, perhaps as many as 800,000 to 1.2 million work-age potential applicants. Given that Barack Obama had three and a half years to do this, and had control of Congress for the first two years of his presidency, Candy Crowley asked, isn’t the timing of this announcement just a wee bit political? Plouffe insists that politics has nothing to do with it, and Crowley isn’t buying it:
Less than 24 hours later, the New York Times reports that it’s entirely political, despite what Plouffe protested yesterday:
President Obama decided last week on a major policy shift to stop deportations of young illegal immigrants after administration officials saw that he was losing the initiative to Republicans on an issue he had long championed and that he was alienating the Latino voters who may be pivotal to his re-election bid.
In recent weeks, the White House faced intense pressure from some of its closest allies — their voices often raised in frustration — to provide some relief for immigrant communities. The urging came from Harry Reid of Nevada and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the top two Democrats in the Senate, and the Hispanic caucus in the House of Representatives, as well as Latino and immigrant leaders across the country.
Bleak figures reported early this month by the Department of Homeland Security showed that a yearlong program designed to shift enforcement away from illegal immigrants who pose no security risk was not producing results, with only about 500 young students nationwide spared from deportation.
And last week, students without immigration papers started a campaign of sit-ins and hunger strikes at Obama campaign offices in more than a dozen cities, saying that despite his promises, the president was continuing to deport immigrants like them.
After three years of record deportation numbers and cautious moves on other immigration policies, Mr. Obama finally used his executive authority in a sweeping way that surprised even his supporters, ending deportations for at least 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children.
In other words, there was no other reason for this announcement other than electoral politics. Furthermore, it’s not even a move that buys Obama anything, especially not in the long run. He issued the rule change (not an EO as some are stating) in order to keep his base of Hispanic voters from eroding any further. That may work for a few weeks, but if jobs don’t return and these permits dump a bunch of new workers into the system, even the topline, nominal jobless rate will shoot up, which has been artificially lowered by the exodus of workers from the workforce. The addition of 1.2 million workers is roughly the same amount that population growth adds in about 10-12 months on its own in the US, and now instead of needing to add 125,000 jobs per month just to keep from falling further behind, we’ll need to add somewhere around 200,000 a month for the next year or so.