SAN DIEGO – This week, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s injunction against President Barack Obama’s executive moves on immigration. Here are the five most important takeaways.
▪ The media need to stop calling what Obama issued an “executive order.” It’s not. Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) is merely a series of executive actions and bureaucratic adjustments that would have allowed for certain groups of illegal immigrants – for instance, the undocumented parents of U.S.-born children – to apply for temporary deferred status and a three-year reprieve from deportation. An executive order would have had the force of law and become a more lasting part of Obama’s legacy.
▪ The numbers involved were a big part of what tripped up Obama’s plan. We were told that an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants could qualify for DAPA. The last “amnesty” passed by Congress – the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act – granted permanent legal status to only about 3 million. Confronted with an even larger figure this time around, albeit for merely deferred status, conservatives went ballistic and said crazy and hateful things. This was likely the reaction the White House hoped for.
▪ As for the alleged burden on the states, the courts – as long as they were diving headfirst into public policy – never bothered to ask why it was that some states would be more likely to suffer than others. The answer is that illegal immigration is a self-inflicted wound, and there is only one reason the states that brought the lawsuit are home to so many illegal immigrants. It’s because they have prospered for years thanks to cheap labor in the agricultural, construction, restaurant and hotel industries and turned a blind eye to the real problem: U.S. citizens who employ illegal immigrants. Among the states that sued and hypocritically want to have their immigration cake and eat it too are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.
▪ By focusing on the financial burden on states, and the requirement that the executive branch give prior notification to the legislative branch before undertaking such actions on immigration, the courts skirted the main objection of conservatives: the claim that Obama exceeded his authority under the Constitution. That’s probably because the White House is on firm legal footing on that question. It seems like just yesterday that House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans in Congress – when hammered by Hispanics for record numbers of deportations – ran for cover by pointing out that the president is in charge of removing people. How right they were. So now these same Republicans want to argue that a president can’t use his discretion to stop deporting people? The GOP can’t pass the buck, and then yank it back when it’s convenient.
▪ This whole rhetorical shoving match over DAPA, like the one that preceded it over a program that granted two years’ worth of deferred action to young people, has been a terrible distraction from the real issues in the immigration debate. They include Obama’s broken promises, his record number of deportations and his half-truths. Add to that the GOP’s cynical use of demagoguery, its failure to propose immigration reform solutions, and its cowardly refusal to confront racists and other extremists within its ranks.
That’s quite a maneuver. Obama proposes something that is too big not to fail, and Republicans predictably make a fuss. In the ensuing chaos, both parties are off the hook and this issue gets kicked down the road. All at the expense of the American people who – despite the huffing and puffing – still have a broken immigration system and, as we have long suspected and has now been confirmed, a political system that isn’t exactly humming along either.
Navarrette’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.