Political Calculus Shifting on Obama Immigration Executive Amnesty

Published on August 15th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
August 15, 2014

August in Washington D.C. is hotter than normal this year and I’m not talking about the weather.  During the month when legislators are back in their home districts on what they like to call constituent work days, Capitol Hill is usually quiet. But a roiling debate on whether President Obama will or should issue an executive order that would provide amnesty for at least five million illegal aliens dominates the domestic news.

Earlier this summer, the likelihood of such an Obama action was high.  But the widely televised Central American illegal alien flood woke up millions of Americans to what open borders, the policy the White House has tacitly supported for five years, really means. Now, suddenly, Obama’s polling on immigration has tanked, which translates poorly for his fellow Democratic congressional incumbents who were already in grave danger of losing their seats. Obama’s immigration numbers are especially lousy—and therefore threatening—with important swing voters. In Reuters and Ipsos polls, 70 percent of Independents agreed that illegal immigrants “are a burden on the economy.”

After reading the polls and getting an angry earful from their constituents on the border crisis and the lax immigration enforcement it reflects, the vulnerable in congress have told Obama that when it comes to immigration, if he acts it must be on his own and without their public support.  The political calculus of an immigration executive fiat has changed dramatically in the recent weeks.

The mid-term election is three months away. Not only is his immigration polling awful, President Obama’s overall job approval rating has plunged into the low 40 percent range. Most important, the touted-as-crucial Hispanic vote doesn’t exist, at least to the degree that it could offset white and black voting blocs. The Hispanic population in key red states in play in the Senate averages 5 percent or lower. Candidates who endorse a presidential immigration pardon would be making a strategic error. In the House, Hispanic voting power is just as weak.  The Cook Political Report identified only 24 House Republican-held seats where Hispanic votes could play a role, if they show up at the ballot box. Historically, Latino turn out on Election Day is light.

With all the negatives going into November, an Obama immigration action seems unlikely. A more prudent course, from a political perspective, would be to wait until the lame duck session or until 2015 before legalizing millions of illegal immigrants.

As the immigration debate swirls on, two things should be considered. First, for all the talk about House Republicans’ refusal to take up the Senate bill, blame inaction on overreaching Democrats.  The Senate passed legislation that would give amnesty to 12 million aliens and more than double legal immigration within the first decade. Every enforcement amendment the Republicans offered was cynically shot down. Border security provisions came so far down the list that no one could reasonably believe that they would ever happen. In blocking the Senate legislation, the House acted responsibly. A more moderate bill would likely have become law months ago.

Second, if Obama pardons 5 million aliens, the total most commonly predicted, the remaining 7 million won’t be far behind. Immigration advocates will immediately demand the others be included, sooner rather than later.

Obama’s irresponsible immigration policies have undermined American sovereignty.  But Obama’s unilateral prosecutorial discretion and deferred action programs have inspired a grassroots backlash against him. The unanswered question is whether Obama cares what Americans think.  Indications are that he doesn’t, and more’s the pity for the historic American nation.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]

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