On Monday, Major Garrett penned a fascinating piece at the Atlantic about a White House meeting on June 30 between President Barack Obama and a host of leftist pro-amnesty groups including the Center for American Progress, the Service Employees International Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Leadership Council on Civil Rights.
According to Garrett, Obama did most of the talking, promising the groups that he would take executive action to slow deportations and grant legal status to millions of undocumented workers. Obama also said he would criticize Congress for its lack of action on immigration reform, ignoring the fact nobody on Capitol Hill trusts the president to carry out any laws they’d pass.
Obama immediately followed through on his promise to the gaggle of advocates with whom he’d met. Just after that meeting, he sauntered out to the Rose Garden and delivered an angry address to Congress on the issue.
“So while I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act,” he said, “and I hope their constituents will too — America cannot wait forever for them to act. And that’s why, today, I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”
But Garrett writes that the pro-immigration agitators at that meeting still walked away unhappy. Because when Obama was asked what he was going to do about the tens of thousands of illegal alien children from Central America creating a humanitarian crisis in Texas, he sounded almost presidential:
Obama, according to those present, argued forcefully that the U.S. had to signal its intent to enforce the law through deportations and that failure to do so could lead more children to die en route to the southern border or take scandalous risks by traveling with smugglers or on the roofs of trains. He could not, in good conscience, give any remotely encouraging signal to children or their parents to risk their lives, as many had already done in coming to America’s doorstep.
Angelica Salas, executive director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, piped up and warned Obama that the driving energy to reach the United States could not be stopped. “Mr. President, when my family and I came to the country, I was 5 years old, and when we were caught crossing the border and were sent back, we didn’t give up,” Salas said. “We kept trying until we made it.”
Obama, according to those present, would have none of it. Kids all over the world have it tough, he said. Even children in America who live in dangerous neighborhoods would like to live somewhere else, but he can’t solve everyone’s problems. He told the groups he had to enforce the law—even if that meant deporting hard cases with minors involved. Sometimes, there is an inherent injustice in where you are born, and no president can solve that, Obama said. But presidents must send the message that you can’t just show up on the border, plead for asylum or refugee status, and hope to get it.
“Then anyone can come in, and it means that, effectively, we don’t have any kind of system,” Obama said. “We are a nation with borders that must be enforced.”
Was he serious about that statement? At first blush, active observers of the president’s track record on immigration and border security could be excused for scoffing at the notion, even after White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that most of the Children’s Crusade would be sent home. After all, when asked pointedly what the administration’s approach to the young illegals would be, Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson offered a suspiciously weaselly response. And then there is the bothersome fact that back in January, Immigration and Customs Enforcement put out an advertisement seeking vendors to escort some 65,000 unaccompanied minors arriving in the country illegally — which would seem an incredibly prescient action for a federal government with a track record not suggestive of such a capability.
Perhaps Obama had an epiphany on the necessity for rule of law at the border, or maybe he saw the Rasmussen poll at the end of April that showed that by a 52-14 count the public doesn’t think he’s aggressive enough in deporting illegals. Most importantly, his discussion partners at that meeting in June weren’t interested in deportations of any kind.
It’s a problem that makes immigration appear to have no apparent solution, because there can’t be a good faith accord made with people who aren’t of good faith.
Regardless of the conflict between Obama’s professed wishes and his track record, it’s relatively clear that the Democratic Party’s interest in immigration, and specifically amnesty, is driven by a desire to create more blue voters. That’s hardly anything new; it’s been the Left’s unstated aim at least since the failed 1986 Reagan amnesty deal, and parties in countries like France and the UK, from whom Democrats often plagiarize policy as well as speeches, have for two decades gained or maintained power with the assistance of Third World immigrants.
What’s more, that aim has become something of a truism in American politics for both parties. In the 2012 cycle, the Hispanic vote played a vital role in Obama’s re-election. Afterward, a panicked GOP commissioned an after-action report that screamed of the necessity to pass some sort of immigration reform to attract Hispanic supporters or risk losing all future elections. John Hayward was hardly wrong last month when he called the current border mess an example of the Cloward-Piven strategy at work.
But the Children’s Crusade on the border (the genesis of which has sparked a number of very interesting questions), together with its attendant sideshows, are challenging that conventional wisdom, and it could be that Obama feels the earth shifting beneath his feet.
Obama’s approval rating on the immigration issue — he is generally perceived as ignoring the need to secure the border in order to gain amnesty for as many illegals already here as possible — has collapsed; a Gallup poll in June showed him at only 31 percent on immigration, with a whopping 65 percent disapproval. Worse, a Rasmussen poll out this week shows that by a 46-31 margin Americans think Obama helped cause the flood of Central American kids to the border by sending the signal that if they came, they could stay. And with the continued terrible optics emanating from the border — Mexican Army helicopters and shooting at Border Patrol agents, the expected trouble on the way in Murrieta, Representative Jim Bridenstine being blocked from visiting a refugee camp set up at a military base in his state, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee passing out lollipops to illegals, constant reports of diseases like cholera, swine flu, and scabies among the populations of those detention facilities — it’s hard to see how the American people are going to become more interested, rather than less, in an open border and amnesty.
The question is, who will carry the mantle for protecting the integrity of the border?
It doesn’t look like immigration reform will come from Congress. The Senate refuses to pass an immigration bill that doesn’t include a whole host of amnesty provisions, and Obama simply can’t berate the House enough to get Speaker John Boehner one that does (because Boehner can’t get his caucus, God bless them, to support a comprehensive bill).
What’s unfortunate is the House leadership hasn’t been savvy enough in its messaging to remind the public that passing an amnesty bill in a deal with Harry Reid this year, as opposed to passing a border security bill in a deal with Mitch McConnell next year, would be stupid on their part. One possible cause for that lack of clarity is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long been the primary distributor of marching orders to Republicans on the Hill. Chamber president Thomas Donohue went so far as to say in May (before he embarked on a mission to Havana to break bread with the Castro regime) that the GOP shouldn’t even bother running a candidate for president in 2016 unless the House passes an amnesty bill. But a June report by the Center for Immigration Studies argues that, on net, all jobs created since 2000 in the United States have gone to immigrants. One suspects that the “business community” sees that waves of new immigration will depress wages and force more competition among workers — when real unemployment is still in double figures and median household income in America has already decreased over the last decade.
Republicans need to start making the case that it’s neither racist nor xenophobic to recognize, as Obama seemed to in that peculiar meeting a week ago, that America needs to prioritize the rule of law and the needs of its own.