1. When Barack Obama came out with his new immigration policy — effectively halting most deportations of illegal immigrants under age 30 subject to restrictions along the lines of the DREAM Act, complete with work permit eligibility — I’m sure he thought it was a no-brainer. After all, the move would please Hispanic activists who have been irritated by his inaction on “comprehensive” legislation and (he hopes) promote Hispanic turnout in November. Plus the amnesty in question is, in theory, temporary and limited to a very sympathetic subset of illegal immigrants. Who would want to deport children who were brought into the country through no fault of their own by their parents and can’t even speak their native country’s language?
I’m not sure it’s such a no-brainer, however. There’s a reason the elite’s pro-amnesty consensus has been repeatedly rebuffed by both Democratic and Republican Congresses: the idea isn’t very popular and splits both parties. Illegal immigration has receded as an issue, both because of increased focus on the economy and the fact that illegal immigration itself is down, partly because of the economic downturn. Obama’s gambit revives the issue and potentially puts him on the losing side. The imagery of new work permits for illegal workers — even sympathetic ones — won’t sit well with a lot of unemployed Americans.
Second, by doing this through a new executive branch policy rather than legislatively he has given Mitt Romney a lot of room to maneuver. Romney can opposed the substance of the policy, as he did when he opposed the DREAM Act during the primaries. He can also criticize the president for short-circuiting a long-term, bipartisan legislative solution, as he did when he sided with Marco Rubio on this issue. And he can focus on the procedure the president used while remaining vague about his own policy preferences, as he has done most recently. The most likely outcome is Romney telling different groups of voters what they want to hear, and Obama has just given him more flexibility to do so.
Finally, Obama’s immigration edict has the same flaws as most comprehensive reform bills. Since it isn’t really an exercise of prosecutorial discretion limited to a small number of individual hardship cases, people will have to apply for legalization. The administration isn’t devoting much in the way of new resources to determining the validity of these applications, meaning that the number of people legalized may exceed the number of people eligible (as was the case with the 1986 amnesty). When people are asked if they trust the government to sort out the good immigrants from the bad, that’s when popular support for various immigration proposals plummet.
2. To put all of the above more succinctly by paraphrasing New York Times columnist Ross Douthat: Obama is assuming that only Latinos have strong opinions about immigration and that Latinos are monolithic pro-amnesty voting bloc. Both assumptions are highly dubious.
3. But immigration will fade into the background again if the Supreme Court rules on Obamacare this week. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hinted at divisions on the court over the issue, but didn’t tip her hand as to whhich why her colleagues would rule.
4. Ron Paul finally won Iowa. This weekend, he swept 21 of 25 contestable delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. That is a bigger bloc of Iowa delegates than either Romney or Rick Santorum hold. This was the first convention fight since Rand Paul endorsed Romney for president.
5. Romney is in the best political shape he’s been in since the campaign began. But if you think it is impossible for an anti-solvency party to prevail, please take note of the Greek elections.
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