Immigration hasn’t always been a Republican and Democratic issue. And as William McGurn reminds us in a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, “The Cruelty of Barack Obama,” our prior president was more of a political operator than a statesman on this issue:
Mr. Obama’s double-dealing begins with his time as junior senator from Illinois, when he helped sabotage a bipartisan immigration package supported by George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy. Mr. Obama’s dissembling continued during the first two years of his own presidency, when he had the votes to pass an immigration bill if he had chosen to push one. It was all topped off by his decision, late in his first term, to institute the policy on DACA that he himself had previously admitted was beyond his constitutional powers.
Democrats weren’t always pro-immigration
For much of the 1980s and 1990s, Democrats and their labor union allies were just as negative on immigration – if not worse – than were Republicans. Like many issues prior to Obama administration, from Net Neutrality to health care, the subject was not clearly partisan.
And in the 2000s, our nation had its last clear chance at addressing this issue – under a Republican White House and a Democratic Congress.
Indeed, given the open attitude of rapprochement that Republicans under George W. Bush showed toward the Hispanic community, Bush had a shot at pulling off his effort at comprehensive immigration reform.
Obama’s record isn’t as pro-immigration as is believed
McGurn recounts some of the details of what went wrong. And he highlights the role that Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois, played in killing immigration reform that year:
For all his big talk about how much he’s wanted an immigration bill, whenever he’s had the opportunity to back one, he’s either declined or actively worked to scuttle it.
Start with 2007, when a coalition of Republican and Democratic senators came up with a bill that also enjoyed the support of the Bush White House. It wasn’t perfect, but it extracted compromises from each side—e.g., enhancements for border security, a guest-worker program, and the inclusion of the entire Dream Act, the legislation for children who’d been brought here illegally that Mr. Obama claims he has always wanted.
Sen. Obama opted to back 11th-hour amendments that Kennedy rightly complained were really intended as deal-breakers.
This darker view of Obama’s motives and actions may well be, in retrospect, the correct one.
But there are many reasons why presidents aren’t able to accomplishing something. And at least for the last six years of his presidency, Obama has had to deal with Tea party Republicans who have been much more negatively disposed toward the benefits of immigration.
And yet when Obama personally spoke about the subject, he spoke so well!
Consider Obama’s remarks in this April 17, 2014, press conference, where the then-president articulated in plain language why immigration is good for America, and how his hand were tied by the House Republicans:
There is bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform. It would strengthen our economy, it would help with our security, and it would provide relief to families who — many of whom have lived here for years and who have children and family members who are U.S. citizens; and that Congress should act; and that right now what’s holding us back is House Republican leadership not willing to go ahead and let the process move forward. [T]here are businesses around the country that could be growing even faster, that our deficits could be coming down faster, that we would have more customers in our shops, if we get this thing resolved.
So true. So, at the end of the who will end up dealing with and improving the situation for immigrants in our country?
(President Barack Obama speaks about his executive action on U.S. immigration policy at Del Sol High School on November 21, 2014, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Obama outlined a plan to ease the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.)