Presidential Leadership? Obama Says ‘No More Debate’ on Immigration Reform

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Barack Obama
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Barack Obama

In a campaign-like speech, Obama addressed a national audience at Del Sol High School in Nevada yesterday, speaking in emotional tones before a packed crowd that understandably resembled a pep rally more than a policy announcement. The president repeated “now’s the time” and called for an end to debate, a line directed at one of the world’s greatest deliberative bodies on one of the most complex issues of our time.

“Action must follow – we can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate,” said the President. “I will send my bill so they vote on it right away,” Obama said.

The impatient words and choice of setting reflect the emotionally sensitive topic of immigration reform, which brings together volatile matters of employment opportunity, family life, law enforcement, and national sovereignty into a daunting mix with politically explosive implications.

It is not serious leadership to present a competing package to the Senate’s and then call for terminating a thorough discussion of the policies. Immigration reform has dramatic consequences for the fate of the country, let alone the party politics that reflect what ideas become translated into national policies.

The president seems to be in multi-tasking mode nowadays, and is looking to move at warp speed through an aggressive agenda, even as his re-election results do not make clear an implicit mandate. After launching a ‘national conversation’ about gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the issue of comprehensive immigration reform has suddenly risen to the top of the second term agenda.

Crucial re-election supporters within the Latino community were disappointed that the president did not make his 2008 campaign pledge a more prominent agenda item in his first term, but nonetheless turned out in record numbers to ensure Obama’s second term. Mitt Romney blundered in the eyes of the immigration public policy circle by invoking lines such as “self-deportation” as a way to resolve the issue of millions of immigrants living in the United States in violation of its laws.

Since immigrants of all kinds are never going to be deported, then this issue is a bit of a fait accompli. The real question is how to integrate those who are here into the economy, while fostering some allegiance to the nation’s ideals. No comprehensive immigration reform package can solve that issue; the American people themselves will have to resolve it through outreach.

Enter Senator Marco Rubio, who has taken the Republican lead on the politically risky issue. The U.S.-born American of Cuban heritage laid out what may be a bridge too far for new immigration law: the issue of entitlements. In an interview with conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh he said the following, as related by Newsmax:

“According to the law today, if you are lawfully present in the country but you’re not a green-card holder, you do not qualify for any federal benefits,’’ Rubio explained.

“That’s existing law. And so that means that the folks that are going to be in the probationary stage that is in our principles, they don’t qualify for any federal benefits except for one: Obamacare.

“Obamacare is the only federal benefit where you qualify for it not because you have a green card, but only because you’re lawfully present.

“That issue needs to be resolved because if Obamacare is available to 11 million people, it blows a hole in our budget and makes this bill undoable.’’

Senate GOP colleague John McCain suggested that border security is indispensable to any bi-partisan legislation. The deadly matter of thousands of highly armed criminals crossing the southwestern border and wreaking havoc is not one to be brushed aside as a fringe obsession. In an interview exclusive to Newsmax, Senator McCain said the following:

“I would hope that the president at the end of the day would understand that there are, in the southern part of my state, people who do not live in a secure environment. He does,” McCain, who was among the eight bipartisan senators who introduced their own immigration plan on Monday, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

While the Senate unveiled a bipartisan package that lays out what IJReview Chief Editor Bubba Atkinson referred to as a “tough but fair” path to citizenship, the president thus wades in with his own set of proposals. Fox News compared the two packages:

An Obama administration official tells Fox News the senators’ plan is on a trajectory that mirrors Obama’s immigration plan almost exactly, and that the White House is willing to let the group take the lead.The aide says requiring illegal immigrants to pay back taxes and a fine and ensuring they would be at the back of the line after would-be legal immigrants have always been part of the president’s immigration proposal. The president has also advocated for a path to citizenship.

The glaring fact is that the president has refused to follow the immigration laws already on the books by passing an executive order that granted a limited and qualified amnesty to certain immigrants prior to his re-election. This is a case of flaunting U.S. law that is now moving forward in the court system, which would seem to be the judicial branch’s answer to an overreaching executive that threatens to put lawyers and judges out of the business of law and into that of an irrelevant debating society.

The Daily Caller addressed this fundamental problem:

Advocates of a compromise reform of immigration law say their efforts are being hampered by President Barack Obama’s policy of ignoring unwanted portions of previous immigration-law compromises.

“It would be ridiculous for Republicans to actually believe that the Obama administration is going to uphold its end of any compromise,” said Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations at NumbersUSA, which wants a reform that would invite fewer, but higher skilled, immigrants“If Obama does not believe the existing laws apply to him, why would he believe a new compromise applies to him?” she said.

Here is the rub: if the law “judgmental” and if it hurts people’s feelings, should it be jettisoned? In a “democracy,” the majority gets what the majority wants, and the consequences for the country as a whole become secondary. When the country is becoming less a melting pot than what Democrats see as a hodge-podge of competing identity groups, which can be cynically manipulated and pitted against one another for votes, and nonetheless, add up into a permanent majority — then is the immigration reform package that has been described by advocates as ‘left of center‘ good for the nation, or good for the Democrat Party?

When the Democrat-supporting left controls the schools, the universities and the media, frankly speaking, then how does assimilation into the broader culture work, if that is a goal at all anymore for immigrants? Are there such things as American values that are being promoted in the nation at large, or are we naively and destructively allowing millions of foreigners into the nation without deep, meaningful common bonds?

The immigration reform issue not only goes to the heart of the American principle of the rule of law, it also goes to who we are as a nation and who we will be moving forward. If some aspects of currently existing law are immoral or inefficient, then the law should be changed. That is precisely why all legislation passed by the Congress must have the executive recognition that it will actually be enforced in its entirety by the president. Without the president’s own compliance to the laws of the land, how can he expect anyone else to comply?

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