Recently, President Barack Obama has been under fire for postponing action on immigration reform until after the November mid-terms. The criticism resounds from both sides of the immigration debate. Both pro-immigration reform activists and House Republicans are accusing the President of “playing politics” with a highly controversial issue.
The President decided to delay taking action in hopes of winning back the House for the Democrats. If he were to announce plans now, Republicans running in congressional races could use the announcement as a rallying point, bringing more voters out to the polls and decreasing the chance of a legislature controlled by Democrats.
Yes, he is playing politics, but only because he is running out of options. Any plan announced right now would have to be on the basis of unilateral executive action. Republicans are claiming that such an action would be an unconstitutional abuse of power. The President hopes that by waiting on the issue, he will be able to spend more time working with Congress to pass a sustainable solution to the problem, rather than executive action that could be easily overturned during the next presidency.
Pro-immigration reform activists are upset that the President is brushing aside a huge issue for political gain. Again, it’s not that he doesn’t plan on addressing the issue; it’s just not feasible to bring it up with the sitting Congress. They tried that last year when the Senate passed a bill that would create a path to legal status for some of the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States, along with the proposition of tighter border controls.
Though the Democrats were confident that the bill would pass if put to a vote in the House, the House Republicans refused to consider it. Obama would rather wait to propose legislation until after the congressional races, giving him another shot at working with Congress to pass something more long-lasting.
House Republicans are hounding him for the same thing, but also argue that any exclusively executive action would be unconstitutional. Speaker of the House John Boehner said that “there is never a right time for the President to take action by himself, but the decision to simply delay this deeply controversial and possibly unconstitutional unilateral action until after the election – instead of abandoning the idea altogether – smacks of raw politics.”
After putting all this together in my head, I have nothing but sympathy for President Obama. There are only so many things that the executive branch has been granted the power to do. I think it’s time to be pressuring Congress to think more seriously about compromise on the issue instead of rejecting every solution brought to the table.
Politics are part of governing, and if the only way to create a legitimate solution to the immigration problem is to wait until we have serious grownups in our legislature, then let’s wait. After six years with the least impressive, least productive Congress our country has seen in a long time, I would also be weighing the option of executive action.
Emma Whitford ’18 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Middleton, Wis. She majors in political science.
Graphic Credit: LOUISA CARROLL/MANITOU MESSENGER