Obama’s July 4 speech sets immigration above the law

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama used the White House’s Independence Day celebrations to tout his June 15 amnesty for at least 800,000 illegal immigrants, and to suggest that the sweeping change is more important to the nation than compliance with the law.

“Just as we remain a nation of laws, we have to remain a nation of immigrants,” he told his audience.

“That’s why… we’re lifting the shadow of deportation from … deserving young people who were brought to this country as children,” he said at a citizenship ceremony for 10 Latinos and 15 other people from Russia, the Philippines and Africa who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

Many legislators and lawyers say Obama’s decision to stop enforcing established immigration laws is a violation of federal law, which he is legally obliged to enforce. The Obama administration has claimed “prosecutorial discretion” as its means for ignoring the law.

Though the campaign denies an election-year relationship with the change, Obama is trying to maximize November turnout among Hispanics, which his campaign staff say is vital to victory in several states, including Florida, Colorado, and Virginia.

Obama’s June 15 de-facto amnesty offers work-permits to people who show documents saying they arrived as children. The White House’s July 4 citizenship ceremony included at least one Latino who was brought into the country as a child.

During his Independence Day remarks, Obama did not try to explain why his June 15 amnesty announcement is legal. Instead, he spent much of his speech lauding the contributions of immigrants regardless of legal status.

“We are a nation of immigrants… Immigrants signed their names to our Declaration and helped win our independence,” he declared. “Immigrants helped lay the railroads and build our cities, calloused hand by calloused hand [and] immigrants took up arms to preserve our union, to defeat fascism, and to win a Cold War.”

“Our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe,” he said.

Obama’s planned amnesty has stoked the growing controversies about the scale of immigration, and whether the federal government should favor high-skill immigrants rather than low-skill immigrants.

The president has declined to take questions about his de facto amnesty move, even as his campaign office has slammed Gov. Mitt Romney for not answering reporters’ questions about immigration.

However, Romney has called for a major shift in immigration policy to favor high-skill immigration. That policy could spur business and employment without boosting competition for low-skill jobs.

That shift is strongly opposed by Latino ethnic lobbies and by many Democrats, who favor a policy that prioritizes reunification of Hispanic families, despite its impact on blue-collar American workers.

Polls shows that many Americans admire and want to welcome immigrants.

But those same polls also show that many also oppose low-skill immigration that drives up the cost of local governments, burdens neighborhood schools and increases competition for blue-collar jobs amid record unemployment, deficits and debts.

The public equivocation about immigration is reflected by Congress, where bipartisan majorities have repeatedly rejected demands for large or blanket amnesties by progressives and ethnic lobbies.

In fact, several states — including Alabama and Arizona — have passed popular immigration-reform laws. These laws have successfully reduced the influx of illegal immigrants, despite opposition from Obama and other progressives, federal judges and ethnic lobbies.

Moreover, amnesty’s political toxicity has prompted amnesty-advocates to develop new euphemisms for “amnesty.”

At the July 4 White House event, Obama used those Beltway euphemisms to repeat his demand for a nationwide amnesty of roughly one million younger illegals, and for an amnesty for 10 million or more illegal immigrants.

“We still need a DREAM Act…. [and] we need … comprehensive immigration reform,” he claimed.

On June 15, Obama presented his de-facto amnesty — which critics say could attract more than 2 million claimants — as a concession to young Hispanics brought to the country by their parents. “It is the right thing to do,” he said.

Nonetheless, polls show Obama’s amnesty is unpopular among swing-voting blue-collar and middle-class voters in Midwest battleground states.

His campaign team recognizes the risk.

A video of the president’s June 15 Rose Garden amnesty announcement was prominently posted at the Latino section of Obama’s campaign website. But it was notably absent from African-American sections of the website, partly because record unemployment in African-American communities makes an amnesty for Hispanics even less welcome.

At the July 4 event where he urged a nationwide amnesty — “comprehensive immigration reform” — Obama did not mention African-Americans’ parlous economic situation.

Follow Neil on Twitter