President Obama announced Friday that he is immediately halting the deportation of all illegal immigrants age 30 and under who arrived in the U.S. as children and have abided by the law ever since. The president described the policy overhaul, which he implemented by executive order, as a bid to make the immigration system "more efficient, more fair, and more just." (His Rose Garden announcement of the new rule was briefly interrupted by a heckling reporter.) Roughly 800,000 illegal immigrants will now have the right to request work permits and stay in the country, although they won't have the path to citizenship Democrats had proposed in the DREAM Act, which Congress blocked in 2010. Obama's move is temporary — as an executive order, it can easily be nixed by future presidents — and falls short of the far-reaching reform that Latino groups have long demanded. But it still draws a sharp contrast between Obama's policies and Mitt Romney's much harder line against illegal immigrants. What should we make of Obama's new immigration policy?
This is a stroke of political genius: Obama's immigration plan is "one of those rare masterstrokes that is both eminently good policy and great politics to boot," says Harold Meyerson at The Washington Post. It's the right thing to do by these immigrants, and will boost Obama's lead among Latinos in key swing states, such as Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. Romney's Tea Party base will want him to pledge to rescind the order, but if he does, "Latinos will turn out in droves to vote against him." The president's new rule "hit the sweet spot for him. And put Mitt Romney in a hell of a fix."
"Obama’s new immigration plan: Good policy, great politics"
Actually, Obama's blatantly political move will backfire: The president is brazenly steamrolling the "duly elected legislative branch," which has said no to this policy more than once, says William Teach at The Pirate's Cove. Such "election year politics" will surely blow up in his face. The illegal immigrants he's sucking up to can't vote. But legal immigrants who became citizens the proper way can, and they "aren’t particularly keen on voting for those who give [illegal immigrants] a free pass."
"Obama administration to offer 'immunity' to some illegal aliens"
Good idea, bad execution: "Our current immigration policy is absurd," says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. "It makes no sense to deport" people who came here as children and have lived here for years. Obama's plan, which happens to mirror Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's alternative to the DREAM Act, is certainly preferable. The trouble is, "the president isn't a benevolent dictator," so he shouldn't be signing executive orders that flout the law of the land, no matter how stupid that law is.
"Obama to ignore immigration law, pretend DREAM Act passed"
Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.