immigration and what’s next

There was a poll in the Wall Stree Journal yesterday that made clear what the public is thinking on immigration reform. A plurality of Americans did not want Obama to take executive action immigration reform. Most Americans want the parties to work together to solve problems and pass legislation. As a result of Obama’s move yesterday, Americans are going to get neither.

The sad thing is that the President seems to have finally succumbed. Obama’s outsider status and promises of changing the way Washington works played a huge role in his successful candidacy in 2008. He has now fully turned away from those promises and become a symptom of rather than a solution to whatever it is that ails Washington. So much for hope and change.

Let me explain exactly why this development leads me to that conclusion. A President, especially one who was so vaunted as being tranformational as Obama was, has to set the tone. He must rise above the partisan fray, as difficult as that may be. He is the leader of the party in power as well as the head of state. The latter should always take precedence over the former. The President is the custodian of our democracy, the world spokesman for the American experiment. The President’s failure to fill that role yesterday takes us one step further down the path from American experiment to American failure. The world watches with curious eyes as the leader of the free world takes his country down the path to despotism.

That’s not to say that the executive action he signed yesterday isn’t good policy. A pathway to citizenship for immigrants is ultimately a good thing for our country, along with increased border security measures so that we can avoid another humanitarian crisis like we experienced earlier this year. Immigrants have shown themselves so ardently dedicated to the American dream that they were willing to risk it all by breaking the law to achieve that dream. This is something we should embrace rather than punish. Further, deporting all immigrants who have come here illegaly was neither practically nor politically feasible. Any such move would quickly enter popular memory as a classic example of a police state overreaching in blind adherance to the letter of the law irrespective of good moral judgement (especially given the racial element involved). Congressional refusal to even bring the Senate immigration bill passed last year to a vote in the house is a sad testament to the fact that some subscribe to this thinking.

Nonetheless, Congress is Congress — partisan squawk-fest that it is. The founders designed the lower house to fill that role. The President’s role must be to rise above all that, not so apt to return in kind the sort of abuse he has taken from Congressional leaders through the years of his Presidency. His failure to do so has done great damage to our Republic, for he has guaranteed the same bitter partisan gridlock that he came to office bemoaning.

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