Published: September 10, 2014
First the U.S. Senate was ready to act on immigration. Then, the House of Representatives was not. Then President Obama was ready to act without congressional backing, and enact measures by way of his executive powers and grant work permits to the vast majority of our undocumented population, as he did back in 2012 with “childhood arrivals.” Then, as of last week, he was not, although the President intimated he may very well be ready to act after this November’s congressional elections.
So goes our nation’s dance with our 12 million undocumented. We love them, because they work as hard, or harder, than any documented person living in the U.S. And they perform jobs most U.S. workers would never choose to do, no matter the wage offered. We also hate them, not as individuals necessarily, but because they represent a breakdown in the rule of law. Not only did they break the law in coming or remaining in U.S., but our law enforcement mechanisms do not, by any large measure, enforce the law against them (why?…that’s a different discussion). The result: a de facto amnesty, where a mainly desirable and otherwise law abiding population is essentially allowed to reside and contribute here, but really as third class “citizens.”
For the undocumented, that status is pretty much what they bargained for, since most of them made a conscious, usually economic, decision that life in the U.S. without legal status is better than life in their home country with legal status; and if not for themselves, for their children. With each passing day, the answer to this problem gets clearer, although the inertia of the status quo becomes harder to overcome. So if we are not going to take measures to initiate deportation proceedings against 12 million undocumented, how come our country cannot get real and allow our President and Congressional leaders to implement some kind of remedy? 1) Politics and 2) The status quo is just too comfortable for most of our society, including our elected leaders. The mantra-like pretexts for congressional (Republican based) inaction, that we “first must secure the border” or that “our President does not enforce the laws”, are flimsy and emotionally charged excuses steering us away from, G-d forbid, a practical Obama-authored solution.
Like in previous chapters of the past decade’s immigration drama, the most recent one involves circumstances neither the President nor anyone else could see coming. Getting in the way of the President’s recent, unequivocal assurances he would act unilaterally on immigration are the masses of desperate Mexicans and Central Americans, many of them women and unaccompanied minors, showing up at our border and seeking whatever protections they can find under our immigration laws. With such images going viral in today’s attention span-less, internet news cycle, Republicans have sought to portray President Obama as weak and the master of a porous border and lawless society. A cocktail of fear, misinformation and national threat is a powerful one, and the Republicans serve up a mean recipe, even though this recent development on the border really has nothing to do with Obama.
So, President Obama has made a calculation that the unilateral, executive action that he promised before summer’s end if Congress failed to act, is best put off until November. Maybe a congressional deal is in the works? Not likely. More likely, the President does not want to have the fall-out from such action to in any way poison the election bids of Democrats running in November’s congressional elections. In the meantime, our society continues to dance……and wait.
PUBLISHED September 10, 2014– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2014, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois