Obama announces amnesty plan; GOP vows resistance
President Obama announced his deferred deportation plan in a nationally televised address on Thursday night, taking upon himself powers constitutionally vested in Congress and perhaps setting off a constitutional crisis, as Republicans will challenge his authority to act.
Obama insisted that the plan is not "amnesty." "Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules," he said.
Someone should buy the president a dictionary for Christmas. Amnesty has nothing to do with the "immigration system we have today." Amnesty is not punishing illegal immigrants for crossing the border without legal documents, not paying taxes, and not "playing by the rules" – which is exactly what he's doing.
AT reader/contributor Bogie raises an interesting point in an email:
When was the last time a U.S. President addressed the nation about something he had decided to do – not something he’d done – and had to explain why it’s not against the law?
Clinton? Nixon? They were defending past actions, not making policy announcements.
You’d think that an immigration policy announcement delivered in purple prose – quoting Scripture! – would not require a legal disclaimer.
Republicans used Obama's own words against him in their response.
Republicans pounced quickly, charging Obama had overstepped his constitutional powers a year after declaring he did not have the authority to act on his own.
In a video released before Obama's televised speech, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said: The president has said before that ‘he’s not king’ and he’s ‘not an emperor,’ but he sure is acting like one."
With 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Obama's plan would let some 4.4 million who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents remain in the country temporarily, without the threat of deportation.
Those undocumented residents could apply legally for jobs and join American society, but not vote or qualify for insurance under the president's healthcare law. The measure would apply to those who have been in the United States for at last five years.
An additional 270,000 people would be eligible for relief under the expansion of a 2012 move by Obama to stop deporting people brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents.
As usual, the president raised a couple of straw men to knock down while accusing Republicans of being heartless monsters:
Obama said trying to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally was not realistic. His voice took on an empathetic tone as he described the struggle of illegal immigrants to avoid getting deported.
"I've seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn't have the right papers," he said.
Very few Republicans have called for mass deportation of 11 million people. That's ridiculous and only serves to highlight the president's desperation.
But note the president's attitude toward "the right papers" – as if there was some clerical error that was forcing the illegal immigrant to be deported.
What a piece of work.
Finally, the president plays Brer Rabbit ("Don't throw me in that briar patch, Brer Fox"):
Obama urged Republicans not to take steps against his plan that could lead to a government shutdown, raising the specter of a crisis that some conservatives would like to push but Republican leaders of Congress want to avoid.
Republicans were blamed for a shutdown over spending a year ago and are seeking ways to deny funding for his immigration steps without provoking a year-end budget crisis.
"Congress certainly shouldn't shut down our government again just because we disagree on this," Obama said.
The president believes there shouldn't be any consequences for rendering the Constitution moot. But if the GOP were to shut down the government, they would be partying long into the night at the White House. Obama may be channeling Brer Rabbit, but the tar baby of a governemnt shutdown would snare Republicans in the trap Obama is setting for them. It hardly matters whose fault it would really be; the media and the president would successfully blame Republicans.
Making Obama a victim of GOP "craziness" is exactly what he wants, which is why cooler heads in both the House and Senate will probably prevail.
Republicans are unsure what their next move should be. They may take the executive to court, they might defund parts of agencies responsible for implementing Obama's plan, or they may wait until next year, when they have a majority, and take a legislative tack on crippling or eliminating amnesty.
Obama's speech last night was the opening salvo in a war pregnant with meaning and importance. The outcome will determine whether we live in a pseudo-monarchy or a republic. And yes, the Ben Franklin admonishment to the woman who asked him after the constitutional convention whether they had decided on a monarchy or republic rings true today:
"A republic, ma'am – if you can keep it."
What say you, America?