I Was Wrong

Mickey Kaus Columnist
Font Size:

Obama’s amnesty strategy isn’t a partial shambles: A few months ago, I punditized that (contrary to reports in the press and threats by his allies) President Obama would not take executive actions that amounted to any kind of sweeping de facto amnesty,** at least not before the November election — even if Congress refused to give him the “comprehensive” immigration legislation he wants. I figured Obama would simply keep his base happy with an incremental cutback in deportations, along the lines suggested by former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Sandweg. Meanwhile he’d hold out hope for a bill.

I was wrong. It turned out Obama’s threat of executive action this summer was even hollower than I thought. Even the incremental deportation cutbacks I’d expected probably won’t happen. Why? The surge of illegal youths crossing the border in Texas and claiming their rights to a hearing — a hearing that will take months or years to happen and that in any case they will ignore. Politically, it would seem to be disastrous for Obama to further weaken immigration enforcement when the weakening that’s already taken place seems to be attracting a new wave of illegals and threatening total border breakdown. Sure enough, the L.A. Times reports that

The administration is slowing its timetable for announcing revisions to deportation policies, including one that would stop most deportations of foreigners with no criminal convictions other than immigration violations [i.e., Sandweg’s suggested reform], according to a senior official familiar with the White House deliberations. …

Obama’s pass-a-bill-or-I’ll act strategy was not just tactically dumb (alienating the very House Republicans it was designed to coerce, stoking activist expectations of an imminent executive overreach to achieve a goal that wasn’t popular enough to sustain the overreaching). It was also substantively dumb the actual policy assumptions underlying Obama’s proposals (that amnesty doesn’t act as a magnet for further illegal immigration) were disproved by the Latin American reaction to his initial pen-and-phone moves before House Republicans had time to be coerced. 

Democrats are still putting on their Goodfellas faces and pretending they have leverage. Dem Whip Steny Hoyer promises a “significant change in policy” if the House does not act in July, according Breitbart News. Senator Dick Durbin says that if Speaker Boehner doesn’t act “the President will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”  (I must have been sleeping in Con Law when they taught the Borrowing Clause.) Senator Robert Menendez defensively declares “the  threat of executive action is not a bluff.”

It’s a bluff. House GOPs should feel free to ignore it, at least through November.** If Obama takes any executive action before then, it will be of the most timid, face-saving variety.


** — A “sweeping” executive amnesty might include, for example, expanding Obama’s non-deportation of DREAMers — young illegal immigrants brought to this country through “no fault of their own” — by adding the parents whose fault it was.

***– After the election, pressure on Obama may increase, Mark Krikorian notes — especially if there’s no lame duck pro-amnesty movement and the GOP takes the Senate. But even then, Obama will likely be reluctant to more or less permanently alienate the GOPs he would need to pass legislation in 2015 or 2016.

Mickey Kaus