I've been rough on Obama lately, so credit where it's due. This Dream Act executive order is the kind of thing I like to see. It's politically sharp, it's defensible as policy (if you don't believe me, ask Marco Rubio, who proposed something very similar), and it drives the opposition both into a corner and up a wall.
Actually, Rubio himself has responded now, and of course he doesn't like this at all. He makes the points that we'll hear more and more in the coming days. This will encourage illegal immigration. It ignores the Constitution. It goes around Congress.
The first argument is speculative demagoguery. The second argument is the one the right is going to go to town on, but it's bogus. What the administration is doing here is simply exercising discretion not to bring certain cases. All administrations do that to one extent or another. It happens, it is worth remembering, that this administration has been the toughes on deportations in recent US history.
The third argument is tied to the second, because evidently part of the right-wing constitutional claim involves circumvention of Congress. But this new measure is not legislation and doesn't have the reach of legislation. It's a law enforcement decision not to pursue certain kinds of cases. That's an executive branch prerogative. Congress has nothing to do with it.
And as for larger crocodile tears from Republicans in Congress--oh, boo hoo. Listen, guys. I have an idea for you. You don't want the president to do things like this, here's your recourse: Negotiate a comprehensive immigration bill. Legislate. Do the jobs you are being paid to allegedly do. Obama stands more than ready to sit down with you and come up with a compromise immigration overhaul bill. So just go meet him. Then, you'll have your legislation.
In other words, the Republicans are going to spend the next few days wailing "but this must be done by legislation" after having spent three plus years never once working with Obama to pass one piece of legislation. It's pretty breathtaking.
Liberals should be a little concerned about presidential arrogation of power as a matter of principle, but in this case, given the GOP's history during Obama's presidency, I have a hard time working up a lot sympathy for Republican complaints. There are also legitimate questions about how well this will actually work. If Joe Arpaio, that Phoenix Torquemada, hands over an undocumented 18-year-old to DHS officials, are they going to say no thanks? I guess they just might. That will be interesting.
They're not mad about this because it's politics. They're mad because it's smart politics. Romney has no choice but to oppose it, and it could cost him in Florida, Colorado, Virginia, and other states. It may cost Obama a little support among independents, but even that I sort of doubt. The kinds of independents who will be turned off by this are Republican-leaning anyway, probably. I don't think most swing voters really want to punish young people who've been Americans all their lives for the sins of their parents.
But this is going to be donnybrook. Obama, in his remarks, made the right move by inviting Congress to pass the Dream Act and comprehensive reform. If they want this order mooted, that's all they need to do.