“We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists” said Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural. It was a gracious touch, a rhetorical olive branch to his vanquished foes. Too bad he didn’t mean it.
Jefferson immediately went about killing off the party of his longtime nemesis, Alexander Hamilton, while his vice president, Aaron Burr, went about killing Hamilton.
After last week’s midterm election, President Obama and Senate Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell offered similar rhetorical olive branches. While it’s unlikely the president and the senator from Kentucky will face off on the dueling grounds of Weehawken, their words of equanimity were about as sincere as Thomas Jefferson’s back in 1801.
In his post-debacle presser, President Obama told the nation “I hear you.” But while the president said all the right things about working with the new Republican reality in Washington, he also offered two thorns for every rose pedal.
Once again President Obama threatened executive action on immigration if “Congress won’t act.”
But Congress did act on immigration. The House refusal to pass the Senate’s 2013 Pathway to Citizenship bill was an action. The Senate bill was rejected as a byzantine mess presenting a logistical nightmare at best and at worst yet another incentive for millions to migrate to this country illegally.
The president and supporters of “comprehensive immigration reform”—Washington-speak for amnesty for illegal immigrants—might not like the action Congress took, but act they did.
On Nov. 4, the American people validated Congress’s action by re-electing anti-amnesty candidates and adding to their numbers. Senate Democrats who supported the immigration bill went down hard: Arkansas’ Mark Pryor, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, Alaska’s Mark Begich. And when Louisiana holds its runoff in December, Mary Landrieu will likely join the club despite her recent flip on the Keystone XL pipeline and just about every other issue she had previously supported. If the new edition of Mary Landrieu shows up in the Senate, the Republicans win either way.
Yet, a draft of a 10-point executive order leaked to Fox News indicates the president plans to grant as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants permission to stay in the country by extending DACA immunity (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to the parents of the so-called DREAMers—kids who were brought to this country illegally by their parents. The president’s action would also apply to the parents of children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants.
To mute the blowback, action could come next week. The first howl you’ll hear will come from Mary Landrieu, who will have a hard time spinning her way past this one.
If President Obama goes down this road, he will be issuing a slap in the face to Senate Republicans that might not result in pistols at 20 paces, but guarantees a political duel to the death once the new Congress convenes in January.
While issues other than immigration contributed to the electoral disaster inflicted on the president’s party, to turn a deaf ear to the anti-amnesty message delivered at the polls is to deny reality.
Case in point: Oregon, one of the bluest of blue states, where a state ballot measure may be the canary in the coal mine President Obama ignores at his own peril.
On May 1, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed Senate Bill 833, granting undocumented immigrants the right to drive in his state.
But a funny thing happened in the Pacific Northwest: More than 70,000 Oregonians signed a hastily organized petition drive and qualified Measure 88, which would repeal Senate Bill 833, for the November ballot.
Sponsored by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, an anti-amnesty group, the “Save Oregon’s Driver’s License” campaign scored the most significant anti-amnesty victory ever, beating the pro-driver’s license forces 66 percent to 33 percent. It got more votes, in fact, than either Gov. Kitzhaber or incumbent Democratic Senator Jeff Merkely, who both easily won re-election. It even outpolled a successful pro-pot measure.
In total, 941,042 Oregonians voted to deny driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
Does President Obama hear this?
“The public supports a pathway to citizenship” is repeated with the regularity of a metronome by Democrats and the corporatist wing of the Republican Party determined to keep a steady supply of cheap labor flowing into this country. But if you ask the American public a straight up question—“Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants?”—you get a very different response.
According to an April 2013 ABC News/Washington Post poll, 80 percent of American adults support “stricter border control to try to reduce illegal immigration.” This includes 93 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents, 74 percent of blacks, and a whopping 61 percent of Hispanics.
Polls are only as good as the poll question, and I’m skeptical of nearly every immigration-related poll. But this can be said with certainty: The public clearly supports a secure border, and it’s impossible to just brush off the Oregon vote.
Then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano assured the nation “the border is secure” before leaving to become chancellor of the University of California. President Obama continues to make the irrelevant claim “the border is more secure than ever.” But the truth revealed itself this year when thousands upon thousands of unaccompanied children simply walked to this country. How secure could the border possibly be if 5-year-olds can penetrate it?
We need meaningful immigration reform and we can get it quickly if only the pro-amnesty forces will separate border security from the pathway to citizenship. Secure the border first, as well as America’s ports, harbors, and especially airports—where one-third of undocumented immigrants enter.
Once the administration has demonstrated effective control of the border, then Congress will resolve the myriad other issues related to immigration, starting with normalizing the status of the millions of DREAMers caught in legal limbo through no fault of their own.
But we’ll never have a solution as long as the two parties try to sell both simultaneously.
In 1986 Congress passed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, the so-called Reagan Amnesty that promised border security in exchange for a “one time only” amnesty for 3 million undocumented immigrants.
The immigrants got their amnesty and the United States got 12 million to 20 million more undocumented immigrants.
We cherish the notion that this country is a nation of immigrants and understand the American Dream is regenerated by new arrivals from all over the globe. It’s maybe the most American thing of all.
But Americans also overwhelmingly support the rule of law—and understand a nation that doesn’t control its own borders is a nation in name only.
Thomas Jefferson also warned in his first inaugural that not “every difference of opinion is a difference of principle.” But for millions of Americans, the border debate is matter of principle and won’t be burned a second time on the altar of Democratic Party political expedience or multinational corporate profits.
Doug McIntyre is host of “McIntyre in the Morning” on Talk Radio 790 KABC in Los Angeles and is a columnist for the L.A. Daily News. He can be reached at: Doug@KABC.com.