Obama on immigration–What took him so long?
When I talk to Jose Antonio Vargas, the undocumented Filipino activist, now filmmaker in America, he couldn’t drive without papers. But he was driven.
That’s what fighting for immigration reform will do. But this week as he was continuing to spread his message, other unauthorized immigrant/activists in Chicago were turning themselves in.
“It’s the same thing I did with a group of 11 in August,” said Vargas, adding that there’s such a backlog nothing is done immediately. But the tactic was clear.
“The Republicans keep saying ‘Get in the back of the line’ but there is no line. So we started one.”
That’s just one of the reactions President Obama’s impending executive action is getting.
You haven’t heard? President Obama is just about to make things interesting.
As I write, the full details aren’t yet out. But enough has been leaked to set the political world abuzz.
The president is going to ride that new third rail of politics—immigration—all the way out of office.
It’s not comprehensive immigration reform. It’s more like some temporary fixes under the rubric “Executive Action.” They are the things the president has always been able to do, but it seems he’s felt he could use immigration as a bargaining chip to get other things he wanted.
You’d be right in asking, “What’s he been waiting for?”
In fact, there was a whole red herring debate over whether he could or could not take action.
He could have. He just thought he could get some deal with the Republicans. In a divided government, that hasn’t worked out. So here comes the quick, Obama executive immigration fix, no Congress necessary.
According to media reports, the plan would provide deportation relief for up to five million people.
It would expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program for DREAMers, that could make many more people eligible by changing the cutoff date to 2010 and eliminating the age limit on individuals.
And undocumented parents of children who are citizens or legal residents may be able to get work permits.
The proposal still wouldn’t include the family unity items Asian Americans want to see, like a speedier process for bringing relatives to the US.
But there could be new tech visas in the offing. And there’s talk about eliminating the mandatory fingerprinting program under Secure Communities, or S-Comm, that led to massive deportations of hundreds of thousands of immigrants since 2009.
Just remember it is constitutional. Republican presidents have done it. But also remember it isn’t amnesty.
Amnesty would be permanent. This is more like a de-emphasizing of certain rules, within the discretion of the president. Look at Obama as the Prosecutor-in-Chief. He’s choosing to relax certain areas. But certainly not all.
Remember, Obama’s the guy who has been behind over two million deportations in his administration. That’s how earnest he’s been in dealing with the GOP to the dismay of immigration advocates.
The leak by Fox did act as a heads up to the Tea Party regulars to gear up for the “executive action is amnesty and amnesty is unconstitutional” fight.
When The New York Times finally got their leak on so they didn’t have to quote Fox, we knew that the truth was somewhere in between here and Asia, where the president chose to recover from those dismal midterm elections.
It does seem to be a good way to get away from it all, doesn’t it?
Obama started his Asia trip with the release of Asian American Kenneth Bae from the North Koreans (which proves the pres has more game than Dennis Rodman). But maybe the immigration leak works out for the president as well.
Nothing like talking about executive action on immigration when you’re halfway around the world in Myanmar, far from your most outspoken opponents. (And a kind of shout out to Burmese American immigrants.)
That didn’t stop Tea Party House members from announcing there’s a December 12 deadline to fund the government and they’re looking to put a lump of coal in everyone’s stocking.
Already Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) (who beat Eric Cantor) are leading a charge to attach a rider blocking any immigration reform–or else. The “or else”? Shut down the government, of course.
If the message of the low-turnout midterms was that voters want the politicians to start working toward solutions, apparently some didn’t get that memo.
Asian Americans, however, are solidly for executive action on immigration, according to the multilingual exit poll of over 4,100 Asian American voters that was conducted by AALDEF in collaboration with 65 national and local community groups in 11 states.
In response to the question “If Congress does not act on immigration reform, do you think President Obama should take his own executive actions on immigration?,” 65 percent of Asian Americans polled said yes.
Where are Filipinos? Another poll of multilingual Asian American voters done by Asian American Decisions came up with some data that shows Filipinos are in line with other Asian Americans backing immigration reform and the DREAM Act.
But it will make for exciting partisan Thanksgiving dinners, when the family can sit according to status and party and jawbone until the food coma kicks in.
Emil Guillermo is an award-winning journalist and author. He was the first Filipino to host a national news show in America when he hosted NPR’s “All Things Considered,” in 1989. He lives in California.
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