Apparently, the President also doesn’t have a Strategy on Immigration Either

August 29th, 2014

Yesterday, after the President admitted that he didn’t have a strategy with respect to ISIS, I tweeted, somewhat facetiously, “Is it possible the President also doesn’t have a strategy on immigration?” Since his June press conference in the Rose Garden, where the President announced that he would go it alone on immigration, countless rumors have trickled throughout D.C. The most outlandish rumors suggested the President would extend DACA to the 5 million family members of the Dreamers. Rep. Gutierrez insisted the President would do this! We were told, at various points, that this news would come around Labor Day. But nothing was confirmed by the Administration. I wondered, much like the uncertainty over how to deal with ISIS, maybe the President also doesn’t have a strategy on immigration?

Now, I find that I was somewhat right. The Times reports that the President will ditch his plans to act in September, and will now wait (shocker) for after the mid-term elections to decide.

Under pressure from nervous Democratic Senate candidates in tight races, President Obama is rethinking the timing of his pledge to act on his own to reshape the nation’s immigration system by summer’s end, and could instead delay some or all of his most controversial proposals until after the midterm elections in November, according to people familiar with White House deliberations.

The president vowed in late June to act unilaterally out of frustration with what he termed Republican obstruction, and said he would announce a decision soon after receiving recommendations from top aides at the end of the summer.

But now Mr. Obama and his aides appear to be backing away from a firm commitment to that timing. In remarks to reporters on Thursday, Mr. Obama hinted at the possibility of a delay.

In a terrible choice of words, Josh Earnest (an inapt name for a Press Secretary if there ever was one), says that the President wont put “the cart before the horse.”

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Friday that the president was “as determined as ever to take that kind of action on his own.” But he and other White House officials declined to repeat the president’s earlier pledge of an announcement by the end of this summer, or to say whether the president was considering delaying some of his decisions until later this year.

“That’s putting the cart before the horse,” Mr. Earnest said. “Those who are speculating about how those recommendations might be implemented are a little ahead of themselves.”

Why is this word choice tragic? The President’s “I have on strategy” blunder yesterday was framed in almost identical terms–which makes me think this was a vetted talking point. Or not.

“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Obama told reporters during a White House news briefing. “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

This is very significant,as we were assured, all summer, that we would get unilateral executive action soon! I imagine immigration rights groups are now getting very, very nervous. They may not get what they were hoping for.

A person familiar with the White House deliberations disputed part of a report on Friday in The Los Angeles Times that suggested Mr. Obama might announce tighter enforcement measurements in the coming days and then delay until after the election a proposal to shield from deportation millions of illegal immigrants.

“The notion that we would divide up enforcement and the other recommendations is highly unlikely,” the person said. But the person declined to say whether an announcement might be delayed or divided up in another way.

The debate within the White House is fierce:

Inside the White House, the timing of an announcement has become the subject of a fierce debate.

Some of Mr. Obama’s advisers are urging him to postpone it, fearful of the political ramifications of a sweeping action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation and provide many of them official work papers. Such a move by the president, some senior officials worry, could set off a pitched fight with Republicans and dash hopes for Democrats running in conservative states.

Democratic control of the Senate hinges on the outcomes of about a half-dozen close races in states where Mr. Obama is not popular, and strategists fear that an immigration announcement could complicate Democratic efforts to prevail in those states, including several races in states that Mr. Obama lost in both 2008 and 2012.

Wait a minute? I thought that immigration reform was a sure winner! How could it be that it would hurt electoral prospects. Maybe this issue is more divisive than we were led to believe.

Others in the White House almost want the President to dare the Republicans, and hope they drag him into an impeachment battle.

But others inside the White House are pushing the president to stick to his promised schedule, regardless of the immediate political consequences. They argue that Republicans will criticize the president and attack Democratic candidates even if Mr. Obama delays parts of his announcement until after the election.

And some argue that the Republican reaction — which could include calls for impeachment of the president or a move to shut down the government — could benefit Democrats politically by creating a backlash against Republicans among voters.

In any event, the President continues to cite congressional intransigence as a rational to act alone:

“Some of these things do affect timelines, and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done,” Mr. Obama said. “But have no doubt, in the absence of congressional action, I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.”

But working around this gridlock (also known as bypassing Congress) has a cost:

At the same time, the president’s repeated efforts to go around a gridlocked Congress have already prompted a Republican lawsuit alleging that he has abused the executive powers of his office. A decision to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation would provide new ammunition to critics who accuse Mr. Obama of building an “imperial presidency” with little regard to the nation’s laws. …

“If he acts unilaterally right now and goes in and grants five million people status in the country, I think he blows up the debate, destroys the debate,” said Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican. “He is going to ignite a furor in the country if he thinks he can do that by executive fiat.”

A broader move could risk an impeachment conflagration that could consume the remainder of his presidency, and a clash over the balance of powers between the executive and the legislative branches of government could reverberate for decades.

Today a colleague presented a paper on DACA, and I had a lengthy chat afterwards about immigration policy. I recognize I am in a small minority of people who support the DREAM Act but oppose DACA. I appreciate the policy objectives of providing some status to the DREAMERS, but not if it is done in an unconstitutional manner.