Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Obama's Immigration Policy: Pandering or Preemption

When President Obama announced his administrative "mini-DREAM Act", my first thought was to regard it as pandering, and as a somewhat risky move given anti-immigration sentiments in some parts of the country. But as the Republicans reveal a flat-footed response, and as Romney attempts to embrace both sides of the issue, I wonder if the move was less about pandering and more about preemption.

Although immigration reform has not been at the top of Obama Administration's agenda, the primary reason for that is the recognition that Congress is unwilling to tackle the issue. Obama attempted to lay the groundwork for reform by stepping up the identification and deportation of illegal immigrants, but that move didn't work - rather than treating him as credible and willing to enforce immigration laws, the Republican Party took the position that Obama was leaving the borders wide open and forcing states to fend for themselves - the Republican Party recognized that it stood to gain from declaring Obama's immigration policies to be inadequate, whatever the facts. Meanwhile Obama's deportation policy had the potential to reduce his support in parts of the Latino community.

Mitt Romney would have to be blind, not to see that as an opportunity. He may have hastily and haughtily dismissed the concept of the DREAM Act, but as we can presently see he was preparing his an appeal to Latino voters. Up to the administrative "mini-DREAM Act", he could have attacked Obama's immigration policy from the left.

With one administrative order, President Obama has left the Republican Party tongue tied, Romney fumbling to articulate - actually, to avoid articulating - an immigration policy, and has inspired Republicans to remind Latino voters about why, despite their overall social conservatism, they are nonetheless attracted to the Democratic Party.

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