- - Monday, December 8, 2014

There are only a couple of points to be made about President Obama’s immigration program, but they are very important. Some of our friends on the Republican side can’t seem to face the reality of the trap Mr. Obama has laid for them. They insist on walking right into it.

Mr. Obama’s trap is this: He is counting on the Republicans getting so upset about his high handedness that they will try to cripple his executive order. At that point – whether successful or not, the Republicans will be charged with hostility toward Hispanics and all the stereotypes that the Democrats have carefully nurtured over the years will appear to have been proven by their own actions. Thereafter, the Republicans can say goodbye to ever recapturing the 40 percent of the Hispanic vote received by George W. Bush just 10 years ago.

So what should the Republicans do?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Yes, Mr. Obama exceeded his authority again in the immigration program he is pursuing. That is an important fact and he must not be allowed to get away with it. However, Congress has no direct recourse except impeachment. Remembering the Bill Clinton impeachment fiasco, Congress would do well to stay out of it. The best available remedy for that problem is to let the courts settle it.

But Mr. Obama’s action is inevitably tied to the substance of WHAT he did. The public is less concerned about the HOW than about the WHAT.

According to the polls, the public wants two things: 1) 70 percent of Americans favor Mr. Obama’s immigration goals and 2) 60 percent think closing the border is even more important than addressing the legalization issue. Mr. Obama’s point that, if Congress won’t solve the problem, he has to try to solve it, has a certain ring of truth. Of course, thoughtful people understand that the Congress has the right to dither and delay as long as they want. But the rest of us don’t like it much.

The key to this strategy, however, is in the second thing they want: closing the border. After all, the millions of the undocumented Mr. Obama claims to be helping are ALREADY HERE! All the moaning and groaning about how they will suddenly bankrupt our cities and schools is completely irrelevant. These folks are ALREADY HERE. Whatever impact they will have on American society is already happening — and has been for years. Giving them a piece of paper is not going to change anything — or at least not much.

Yes, they came to breathe the free air of America. So did our ancestors (before it was illegal). And they did break our current laws to come. But that was a long time ago – at least five years ago, in most cases even longer. And our options as a country are very limited. As everyone agrees, we can’t deport millions of people. What else can we do? No matter how you slice it, we have to give them some form of legal status.

That’s what Mr. Obama is doing — in a small way. What is the threat to our sovereignty and salvation in legally recognizing people we’ve known or done business with for years? The answer is that the threat is not from them. It is from the people in other lands who are watching. They seem to come quite easily to the conclusion that a little concession from Los Estados Unidos is a signal to rush to the Rio Grande in the thousands, as we saw last summer.

The underlying issue is, of course, the current laws restricting legal immigration to less than 675,000 individuals a year, more than half of whom are, in practice, family members. Of the first step toward immigration, the acquisition of a U.S. visa, over 60% of the nine million people granted visas in 2013, went to businessmen and tourists. There were 1,031,631 green cards (legal resident permits) granted in 2012, 66 percent of which were granted to family members, in spite of the 10-20 year wait for adult children. This means that the US welcomes an almost invisible number (.3 percent) of newcomers (not even new citizens) in a year. With America’s educational, country of origin, and employment restrictions on immigrants, in other words, it is almost impossible for a villager or farmer from Latin America to enter the United States legally. A thorough reform of our immigration system should start there.

The immediate challenge, however, which the Republicans should be concentrating on is closing that border. Leave the Obama wards alone, or better yet, work to improve the opportunity Mr. Obama has offered them. After all, there are still, by some counts, six or seven million illegals untouched by the Obama plan.

But today’s issue is to make sure that another surge of illegals doesn’t overwhelm our border security, our cities and our schools.

Republicans need to get on board the immigration express before there is another train wreck. It is not in the best interests of the country for them to stop the train now that it is leaving the station. The president has taken a baby step toward solving the immigration problem. The GOP should now show him how it should be done.

There is also room for the GOP to do a little soul searching in all this. Why so frantically hostile to anything Obama wants to do? Is it hurt pride because he and Harry Reid have outmaneuvered the opposition so often? Is there really a Nativist strain in all this rejection of any plan to fix the immigration problem, whether it comes from the Republican President Bush or the Democrat President Obama?

The opposition to new immigrants by this nation of immigrants has a long history in the United States, much of it aimed at Catholics and Jews. In the 1830’s, a Philadelphia mob burned the convent of German-speaking nuns because they didn’t like Germans or Catholics. The Know-Nothings almost succeeded in controlling the House of Representatives in the 1850’s in a movement largely inspired by opposition to Irish immigration. The Ku Klux Klan maintained its political viability with its rage against Negroes, Catholics and Jews for over a century after Reconstruction. The 1960 election campaign of the Irish Catholic, John F. Kennedy, was in part a final test of prejudice against his background.

Neither pride, nor political ideology, nor racial bias, nor simple antipathy for the president constitutes a valid reason for refusal to work with the president. The urgent need is to develop a sound, fair and practical solution to the immigration chaos which exists especially on our southern border. Even if they don’t want to, the GOP must put its shoulder to the other wheel and push this very complex issue to a successful conclusion. It has become a critical challenge to the nation, especially in this time of a terrorist threat. It is also the right thing to do. These are real people with a real problem that can be directly alleviated by the Congress of the United States.

There is nothing in this strategy, of course, to impede the Congress from joining the lawsuit of the 17 states (and more every day) who are suing the president for usurping illegitimate powers. It seems clear that the dispute between the two branches of the federal government should be settled in the traditional way by the third branch of the government, the judiciary.

But, the message to the Republican Party at large is: Don’t fall into Obama’s trap and lose the vote of America’s fastest growing minority for the next generation or maybe forever.

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