“To quote Joe Biden, this is a big f---ing deal,” said Nathan Pippenger in TNR.com. President Obama last week suddenly changed the terms of the nation’s ongoing immigration debate, by signing an executive order halting the deportation of between 800,000 and 1.2 million young illegal immigrants. Like the DREAM Act that was blocked by Senate Republicans in 2010, Obama’s order—effective immediately—lets immigrants under age 30 stay and work in the United States if they were brought to this country before the age of 16, have no criminal record, and have either graduated high school or served in the military. This order doesn’t give young immigrants a path to citizenship, said Garance Franke-Ruta in TheAtlantic.com. The so-called DREAMers will have to reapply every two years to stay in the country. But for “a whole generation of young people who are Americans in all but documents,” Obama’s order is the “game changer” they’ve been praying for: They no longer must live every day under the threat they could be suddenly deported.
Obama’s “executive overreach” is unprecedented, said John Yoo in NationalReview.com. The Constitution requires the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” and the law is that those who entered the country illegally have to leave it. For Obama to refuse to enforce the law because he personally disagrees with it “violates the very core of his constitutional duties.” This decision reeks of political cynicism, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. After doing nothing to reform immigration for three years, Obama is trying to re-energize the disenchanted Hispanic voters “he’s counting on in November.”
He may yet regret that gamble, said Sean Trende in RealClearPolitics.com. It’s more likely that Obama’s unilateral DREAM order will “wind up as a net negative for the president.” With the exception of Florida, whose Cuban population is famously “atypical of other Latino electorates,” the only swing states with significant Latino populations are Colorado and Nevada. Together those states are worth a mere 15 electoral votes. Obama’s de facto amnesty “could easily offset those gains” by angering the independent, working-class white voters with whom Obama is already struggling.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Nonsense, said Andrew Sullivan in TheDailyBeast.com. Obama just pulled off “a spectacular political coup”: Hispanic voters are exhilarated and grateful, polls show a stunning 64 to 30 percent margin of support among likely voters, and Willard Mitt Romney now has a huge dilemma. The Republican nominee became an immigration hard-liner while pandering to the conservative base during the primaries, pledging his opposition to the DREAM Act and saying he hoped to force illegals to “self-deport.’’ Lately, he’s been trying to moderate that tone in hopes of winning some Hispanic votes. Obama, though, has now boxed him in. Romney must either support Obama’s initiative, enraging conservatives, or oppose it, further alienating Latinos. No wonder he’s ducking the question of whether he’ll undo Obama’s order if he’s elected president. “Well, we’ll look at that,” a flustered Romney stammered.
Romney’s decision shouldn’t be so complicated, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. The young immigrants who will be freed of fear by this order were “utterly blameless,’’ and anyone with “a moral compass and a heart” can see that. Romney, one suspects, would agree if he could. But Republicans have made “a conscious decision to offer nativists and xenophobes a comfortable home.’’ If that decision costs them the election in November, they will have no one to blame but themselves.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.