Divide and conquer sums up Obama’s political strategy on immigration: Stop deportations. It will inflame conservatives and appease Latinos. The more conservatives are angered, the less chance genuine reform will have in the House. And the more Latinos are appeased by the end of deportations, the more they will be drawn to the Democrats, all the more because of their frustrations in not passing immigration reform.
It’s as skillful a move as any ricochet shot in a pool hall.
By widening the gap between Latinos and conservatives — through a deliberate refusal to enforce immigration laws — he hurts the country and helps his party.
The cornerstone of any Republican approach to immigration reform is to prevent a continuing influx of illegal immigrants from abroad even as those who have already arrived are, at least partially, assimilated. Republicans are generally willing to grant those here illegally the ability to work without fearing deportation but not a path to citizenship and voting.
But all Republicans are concerned that any form of amnesty in the U.S. will only serve to catalyze a heavier flow of foreigners to come here illegally. The recent influx of unaccompanied children from Central America makes this tendency manifest.
The key question for Republicans has always been: Can we trust the Administration to seal the border?
At first, Obama seemed to want to win the confidence of conservatives that they could rely on him to deport undocumented immigrants vigorously. In the years after he took office, he increased the annual number of deportations from the 250,000 per year that prevailed under Clinton and Bush to 400,000.
But, in his second term, Obama reversed course and showed he was totally unworthy of Republican or conservative trust on the issue:
• He cut deportations back to the 200,000 per year range.
• He reduced the fines charged employers for hiring illegals by an average of 40%.
• He virtually ended the policy of deporting anyone unless they had committed a crime while here.
• He encouraged municipalities to declare themselves “sanctuaries” where police would not apprehend or incarcerate anyone because of their illegal status. Those who served sentences for other crimes would be released at the end of their jail terms where before, they were held for transfer to ICE for deportation.
• Border guards were no longer allowed to fire at retreating vehicles, making it easier to bust through immigration border gates without consequence.
• After unilaterally legalizing the status of all DREAM immigrants — those who came here illegally as children with their parents — he is now proposing to legalize their families as well.
• He is considering allowing legalization of the families of those who have enlisted in the military. (Illegal immigrants cannot join the military but legal immigrants can).
• The president promised further reductions in deportations by ordering a review of his Administration’s policies to make deportation more “humane.”
• And, to cap it all off, he is battling zealously in the courts to stop any state from enforcing the very immigration laws he won’t, claiming that it is a federal prerogative.
How can Republicans trust Obama to secure the borders with this record of disregard of our existing laws?
The inevitable backlash among Republicans is exterminating the very moderates (like Eric Cantor) who could have led the way to bi-partisan reform and encouraging those who oppose it.
And, at the same time, both Obama’s appeasement and the Republican backlash are driving Latinos into Democratic arms despite their concerns over the economy and other key issues.
Brilliant strategy. And it’s working!
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