On Thursday, Nov. 20, President Barack Obama did a very gutsy – some would say reckless – thing. In a TV speech he announced that, via executive order, he has approved of a plan to let long-time undocumented workers stay in the nation for a three-year period, though not with citizenship status.
Predictably, of course, Republicans are screaming foul, accusing the president of being some kind of dictator.
Presidents before Obama have used executive orders quite often for many agenda items. In just the matter of immigration, to cite two examples, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush issued executive orders to extend amnesty to family members who were not covered by the major immigration-reform law that had been passed by Congress in 1986.
It would be an infinitely better outcome if – rather than executive order – Congress would approve a comprehensive bill for immigration reform, which Democrats and Republicans have it in their power to do, if they could learn to work together with give-and-take, the way they’re supposed to do, the reason they were elected in the first place.
But we know all too well how dysfunctional Congress has become in the past few years, thanks to some elected anti-government radicals who think no legislative action, period, is the way to go, a way to erode the forces of the “Big Government” they so despise, to cripple or kill it by slow starvation – the ol’ Ted Cruz plan.
That said, it would be so much better if Republicans and Democrats carved out an immigration bill. The Republicans, probably, could bring some real pluses to such a bill – for instance, finding ways to strengthen border security, which absolutely must be done in one way or another. An additional plus would be to strengthen the penalties against companies who knowingly hire undocumented workers. And yet another plus would be to put stringent requirements to any pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers living here now. Those have all been points emphasized by Republicans, and they should step up to the plate, now, to help create a bipartisan immigration-reform bill.
Now that Republicans have majorities in both houses of Congress, they have no more excuses to just do nothing and to balk at anything and everything proposed by the president or their fellow colleagues – Democrats.
The time for obstructionism is – or should be – over. That sentiment, according to polls, is what fueled the last election choices. It’s no wonder Obama feels compelled to use executive orders after putting up with stonewall obstructionism and inaction for so long. In January, when the newly elected Republicans are sworn in, they just might help move the Congress to bipartisan action, as long as they can keep the radical fringe in their party on the back burner. It’s quite possible they will feel and heed a historic moment – an immigration policy that will enhance and strengthen this country for a long time to come.
Obama’s executive order is not the best way to go about it, but it just might prove to be the goad that Congress needs for its members to get to work and stop playing childish, petty, bully-in-the-sandbox political games.
The U.S. Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, approved a comprehensive immigration-reform bill almost two years ago. There were enough votes in the U.S. House to pass the bill, too, but Speaker John Boehner, cowed by extreme right-wingers, refused to bring the legislation up for a vote. If those foot-draggers would start doing their job instead of trying to sue or impeach the president, this country would be far better off.
As the president has been saying repeatedly to the House, “Pass this bill!”