For the better part of his second term as president, Barack Obama has sought an overhaul of America’s immigration laws. Republicans, notably those in the U.S. House, have fought him every step of the way.
Obama and those who share his views on immigration have had enough, and understandably so. It is time to act, which the president said Monday he was prepared to do through executive orders later this summer.
If Congress wouldn’t do it, he will, he says.
How ironic it is, then, that congressmen such as Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, are slamming Obama for, as Byrne describes it, “Our founders clearly reserved the power to establish laws to Congress, not the president.”
The irony there is obvious.
Obama’s dilemma is complex. Everyone, including the president himself, admits that America’s system of immigration enforcement needs more than a simple tune-up. That’s why it has been the top priority of the president’s second term. For that matter, it’s why immigration reform was a top priority in the second term of George W. Bush, who was also fiercely resisted by his fellow Republicans.
“Our system is so broken, so unclear, that folks don’t know what the rules are,” Obama said this week.
Senate Republicans passed their version of an immigration bill in 2013. But House Republicans, including Byrne, have tried to justify their refusal to work on the president’s proposals by saying no immigration overhaul can work until the nation’s existing immigration laws are properly enforced. They point to this summer’s immigration problem — the thousands of unaccompanied and undocumented children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who have crossed the U.S. border — and consider it a zero-sum situation.
No overhaul until the current crisis is stemmed.
“Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill,” the president said. “Instead they’ve proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what’s best for the country. And the worst part about it is, a bunch of them know better.”
That, of course, is par for the course for House Republicans more interested in creating a dam that blocks Obama’s policies than they are in using their power in constructive ways. It’s telling that among the president’s plans for his executive orders is a redirection of immigration enforcement efforts to the border — which addresses one of the issues on which the House GOP so heavily criticizes the president.
America can’t overhaul its immigration law unless enough people in Washington drop their hyper-partisanship, lift a finger and do something other than complain. Obama’s disgust with the whole situation is wholly understandable.