The speech will start at 8 pm ET, but the damage may last for years, or decades. Barack Obama will step to the podium to explain how instructing the federal government not to enforce immigration law somehow completely comports with the Constitution, using all of the credibility he has left after trying to claim that Jonathan Gruber’s name just came to his attention after reading about him in the news.
Speaking of the news, Obama’s not going to get live coverage from the broadcast nets, much to his chagrin. That may be to protect Obama from himself, though, as Brandon Morse suggested earlier today:
Support for Obama's amnesty plans in polls this wk
USA Today: 42/46%
Now I see why networks aren't carrying it
— Brandon (@Brand_Allen) November 20, 2014
Viewers can still catch the speech on CNN, FNC, C-SPAN, and MSNBC, as well as Telemundo and Univision, of course. I usually choose C-SPAN when possible in order to keep from hearing others talk over a live speech. That’s assuming, of course, that any viewers really want to hear the speech live in the first place, rather than just read the transcript which will come out shortly afterward. The broadcast nets are probably betting that the latter will be the case with all but the most avid political junkies, and two weeks after a national election, most everyone else would rather watch the Kansas City Chiefs deport the Oakland Raiders from the win column for the 17th regular-season game in a row.
The better choice will be to wait for the results of the speech. Mitch McConnell is promising a “forceful response” in the next session of Congress:
In a blistering speech that quoted Obama’s past statements about his limited unilateral powers on the subject of immigration, the GOP leader did not specify what action that his Republican Senate will take next year, whether it be zeroing out funding for government agencies in a spending bill, taking the White House to court or taking a confrontational stance to the president’s nominees, as suggested by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
But the Kentucky senator vowed there will be a forceful response from Capitol Hill once his newly minted GOP majority takes over next year.
“He needs to understand something. If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act,” McConnell said ahead of a long Thanksgiving recess that begins Friday. “We’re considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”
Hugh Hewitt argues that the amnesty from deportation will actually make the situation worse for those it covers:
The people in the country illegally will know shortly that this stunt tonight does not help them and may in fact hurt them –badly. The collision of what is in essence a letter of recommendation from the president to employers with their genuine worries about liabilities under state law and about their fiduciary duties to their customers is going to be instant, and not to the good of the illegal population. Employers are going to flee the president’s testimonial that, if he were king of the forest, not queen, not duke, not earl, he’d let this person have a green card. Because he’s not king, he cannot bless this person’s employment in the real world of tort liability and state law. He cannot solve the issue of Social Security and unemployment insurance withholding. What he can –and will do tonight– is mark the illegal as someone not worth the trouble of hiring.
The president simply cannot bestow a green card. Just a blessing. An Obama blessing. The blessing of a cheater.
The president’s lawless act will have the apparently contradictory impact of both making life harder for “those in the shadows” by increasing the reluctance of employers to hire the obviously illegal, while at the same time attracting millions more north across the fenceless border. Employers are simply going to be less willing to hire the obviously illegal because of a host of other laws the president cannot change, but the underground and top line messaging of the president’s act will be an amplified “Olly olly oxen free” to the millions who wish they were in America and not living in their own country.
Marc Ambinder writes that Obama’s actions will make the overall problem of illegal immigration worse, too:
It will make America more of a magnet for undocumented immigrants. Come to America, find a job that Americans don’t want to do, live in the shadows for a while, and wait for political pressure to boil over, forcing the president at the time to grant you some form of documented status. In 1986, President Reagan granted a form of amnesty for immigrants who came to the country before 1982. He actually used the word “amnesty.” Reagan. A big difference: Congress agreed with him. But it continues a precedent that is hard to explain away to those who are struggling to escape poverty, crime, and desolation elsewhere.
“Illegal” immigration will probably increase in the near-term. It has, every time any form of amnesty has become law. Why? Politics and money, as Brad Plumer explains here. Congress did not fund border enforcement as well as they should have in 1986, and many of the employment provisions, which were designed to reduce the magnetic lure of the job market, were watered down to please various constituencies. Executive discretion dealing only with status issues will create unforeseen complications for employers today.
Immigration politics will become nastier in the near-term. You think you’ve heard the last of talk radio hosts bloviating about Ebola-carrying migrants sneaking across the southern border? It’s about to get much worse, and much more toxic. By singling out certain classes of undocumented immigrants, Obama puts a bullseye on the backs of those who do not qualify for documented status. Add the idea that the president is acting like a dictator and — kaboom: the act of granting amnesty becomes even more associated with one political party.
The damage will spread farther than that, too. I can’t wait for President Scott Walker to unilaterally order all federal agencies to stop withholding union dues and refuse to enforce mandatory fees because Congress hasn’t acted on PEU reform quickly enough or to his satisfaction. Unions can then thank Obama for setting the precedent of presidential authority on Walker’s behalf.