Should Obama Push Executive Action on Immigration After His Shellacking?

Yes, if he doesn't want 2016 to be an even bigger debacle


Boss Tweed / Foter / CC BY

There is no doubt about it: The rout of the Democratic Party this week has taken the wind out of any impending executive action on immigration that President Obama might have had in mind. He got his ass handed to him by voters and it would seem like insanity to ignore their verdict and unilaterally push something this controversial.

Even Vox's Ezra Klein, no foe of immigration reform, openly ridiculed White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest's reassurance that President Obama would go forward with his executive action. "But…really?" Klein scoffed. "Republicans just won overwhelming victories in the House, the Senate and the states, but Obama is going to go ahead and announce a major executive action all of them disagree with? At this point, if the action happens at all, my guess is it will be a lot smaller than supporters are expecting."

But that'll be a mistake: President Obama ruined his party because his promises about Obamacare – that people who liked their plan could keep it; it would lower premiums for most people; it wouldn't crowd out employer coverage and yada, yada, yada – turned out to be complete lies. Now if his promise about giving relief to millions stuck in the broken immigration system turns out to be a lie too, 2016 will turn into an even bigger debacle for Democrats who'll need the Latino vote more than ever to win the presidency and take back the Senate.

Obama vaguely suggested in his post-election press conference that whether "it's immigration or climate change," he's still going to do what it takes to secure what's best for our communities. Climate change he should definitely rethink. But immigration is another matter, even though he'll be under a lot of pressure to give that up too. RNC Chair Reince Priebus had been promising the GOP faithful that if his party took the Senate, it will do everything in its power — "defunding, going to court, injunction…you name it" — to stop Obama from declaring "executive amnesty." (This is a poetic mischaracterization of what the administration has proposed given that executive action can't actually offer amnesty — meaning a path to citizenship or even permanent legalization — but instead, only temporary stay from deportation and a work permit.)

It is hard to overstate just how disgusted Latinos are by Obama's midterm switcheroo— deferring executive action till after Nov. 4 for nakedly political reasons. But cynical as his decision may have been, it did make a certain amount of political sense. Of the 10 toss-ups that were in play this week, only one — Colorado — had a significant Latino presence. Deferring action no doubt depressed their turnout (although by how much is debatable since Latinos don't show up in huge numbers for the midterms anyway). Forging ahead would have mobilized far more whites in the other nine states, making this week even more of a rout for Democrats.

But in the 2016 presidential election, this dynamic will fundamentally change: Midterm voters are famously whiter, older and more Republicans. Conversely, Latinos are a more crucial factor in far more swing states in presidential elections. Indeed, as Obama himself admitted to The Des Moines Register before the last presidential election that the one big reason he would capture a second term is because the GOP had so thoroughly alienated Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic group. And what was true then is going to be even truer next time.

Latinos made up 11 percent of the eligible voting population in 2012, and that number will be even higher by 2016. It will rise by 2 percentage points in critical presidential swing states, including Florida (where their share of the electorate will hit 19 percent), Colorado (16 percent), and Nevada (18 percent) — as well as New Mexico (42 percent), Texas (29 percent), and Arizona (22 percent).

That ought to give Democrats an automatic advantage except for this fact: Just because Latinos are eligible to vote doesn't mean that they will. Only 50 percent of them turn out compared with 66 percent of whites; that's one reason why Texas is still so reliably red. Latinos' 2012 turnout rate was higher because Obama had vowed to push immigration reform through Congress on a priority basis in his second term.

Latinos are perfectly aware that Obama's failure to deliver was in no small part due to the obstructionism of a small subset of loudmouthed House Republicans. They might have forgiven him for that — except that he has removed more undocumented immigrants from the United States than even President Bush, earning the soubriquet of deporter-in-chief. Worse, he has been downright heartless in how he's dealt with unaccompanied Latin American minors seeking asylum, pressing to deport them without even the hearing required under a Bush-era law against human trafficking.

So the only way to inspire Latinos to make the schlep to the voting booth and pull the lever for Democrats in 2016 is to make good on Obama's promise and offer their unauthorized loved ones deportation relief. But that isn't the only political advantage of pushing executive action.

Everyone (even Real Clear Politics' election analyst Sean Trende, who authored a compelling series called the "missing white voters," noting that Republicans can become more competitive by concentrating on white voters) acknowledges that Republicans will have to do better than the 27 percent Latino vote that Mitt Romney got in order to win presidential elections. At the very minimum, that will require them to back off from the kind of harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric that Romney and other Republican presidential hopefuls deployed during the last primary.

But they can't do so while raising a big stink over executive action. Making that the central issue in budget fights will rally Latinos not just to vote for Democrats — but against Republicans. It would cement Republicans' reputation as an anti-Latino, anti-immigrant party, hurting its prospects in the long term when whites do become a mere plurality.

What's more, many Republican governors in Latino-dense states, such as Rick Scott in Florida, won at least partly because they made an all-out drive to attract Latinos. Congressional Republicans' harsh talk will intensify the civil war in the party, all of which will redound to the benefit of Democrats. This is especially the case since, contrary to this election when more Democrats were defending their Senate seats than Republicans, in 2016 Republicans will be defending 24 seats compared to Democrats' 10.

If Republicans were smart, they'd counter President Obama's executive action with their own immigration initiative to steal some of his thunder and minimize the political damage to themselves. And, strange to say, given the expanded Republican presence in the House, the GOP leadership might have more room to maneuver and meet him half way  because it might be able to get more recurits for reform and marginalize the obstructionists in its midst.

Thus both from the standpoint of policy and politics, the president shouldn't necessarily back off now.

A version of this column originally appeared in The Week.

NEXT: The GOP's Massive Win Doesn't Solve Its Identity Crisis at All

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  1. This is where we find out which Libertarians are classical liberals and which ones are just progs who like to smoke dope. The former will value the rule of law more than they value getting their pony on immigration and see Obama deciding to no longer enforce the law for what it is, a major step towards tyranny. The latter won’t give a shit because it will give them what they want. Is anyone surprised which group Dalmia falls into?

    1. A step towards tyranny. Towards.

      *scratches head*

      What are you talking about? Have you been asleep for the last 14 years?

      1. Okay, another step towards it. And a really big one too.

    2. Yep, why is this woman being published on Reason? Whether you agree with “immigration reform” or not, no Libertarian supports taking on even more executive power in violation of the constitution.

      This is a progressive position, the ends justify the means.

      1. Dalmia is literally rabid on the immigration issues – nearly every article references the issue (no matter how obtuse).

      2. It’s not unconstitutional for Obama to order executive orders on on some aspects of immigration. He just can’t legalize them by himself.

    3. I have to agree with you here. I really am taken aback by Dalmia’s position, and I’m not even wildly at odds with her policy preference on the matter. She’s arguing for a massive expansion of executive power in order to arrive at a worthwhile political goal.

    4. Bastiat, my friend. It is not a classical liberal position to support immoral laws just for the sake of rule of law.

  2. Obumbles is an ideologue. Of course he will give executive amnesty. God knows what else he has up his sleeve. He wants to be full dictator and perhaps this will be his excuse to try.

    I hope he does. I hope he goes all out full leftist. We will see how far he can go before the voters force the party of stupid to impeach and try his ass.

    After all of the petulance and malicious shit we have had to put up with that is the least he deserves. Personally I think he should be in prison regarding F&F.

    1. Why impeach him when the Republicans can sit back and watch him destroy his own party? Hillary must be livid right now.

    2. Hopefully the Republicans are not stupid enough to impeach President Obama:
      1. The Senate, even after this election, will never get the 2/3rds majority necessary for conviction.
      2. The process would eat up most of the time until the next election, leaving a Republican Congress no time to do anything voters would count as useful.
      3. Impeachment would energize the Democrats like nothing else, gifting them an issue they could win on.
      4. President Biden.

      1. I think a President Biden would be awesome.

        He’d have to a establish an Apology Czar for all the stupid shit he would say.

      2. i have always preferred biden to obama. At least he’s funny.

      3. Trying to impeach the last democrat president in the last years of his term didn’t do much harm to future presidential prospects of the republican party. I think it would be a powerful political move to have history show that 2 Democrat presidents in a row faced impeachment.

  3. “Should Obama Push Executive Action on Immigration After His Shellacking?

    Yes, if he doesn’t want 2016 to be an even bigger debacle”

    Really? I’m aghast that you would make an argument for Executive Action (I’m assuming no actual legislation) on a libertarian site.

    1. I agree. I don’t think Dalmia is going to like it very much if the President can now just choose to enforce whatever laws he feels like and no others.

      1. Is Dalmia even a Libertarian? or just an open-borders, no restrictions on immigration advocate? I never see her write anything that doesn’t have something to do with immigration or India.

      2. I think Shikha Dalmia is an “Ends justifies the means” kind of person.

        Here’s an article of Dalmia’s from 2011.

        “But the fact of the matter is that when Obama can get away with deploying his executive power to accomplish his agenda, he does so without pause or hesitation, constitutional niceties such as checks-and-balances be damned. His many power grabs are worthy of a book.”…..ower-grabs

        It looks pretty apparent that Executive Orders for things Dalmia doesn’t like are “power grabs are worthy of a book”. However, if it’s something she wants, then it’s just fine.

        Please Reason, stop paying her.

        1. This nails it.

          She is just another progressive. Send her packing.

        2. Ends justifies the means” kind of person

          and as such, the Kant in me has an allergic reaction to this sort of stuff.

      3. I think a lot of libertarians would be ecstatic if about 90% of the U.S. Code went unenforced.

        1. Repealing a law is one thing, but selective enforcement is just tyranny by another method.

          The US has traditionally been a nation of Laws not of Men. If the President is allowed to choose what laws to enforce, then that principal has been abandoned.

          1. But we already have selective enforcement. There is simply too many laws and not enough pigs to enforce all the law.

            The US has traditionally been a nation of Laws not of Men

            That ship sailed a long time ago. Somewhere around the invention of “secret interpretations” of law.

      4. If he NOW just enforces the laws he feels like? How will we tell the difference from the last 6 years?

        1. It’s true, but it already occurs. One prominent example libertarians don’t complain about – federal enforcement of marijuana laws.

    2. Really? I’m aghast that you would make an argument for Executive Action (I’m assuming no actual legislation) on a libertarian site.

      The article I read was about what the president needs to do if he wants his party afloat in 2016, not what Dalmia or libertarians might want done.

      1. You’d have to be ideologically blind to read that article and not get the implication that Dalmia is advocating for Executive Action.

        Your comment is Tony class obtuseness.

        1. it is really obtuse, but Tony class?

          1. Yeah ok, that was a bit much. I got carried away by hyperbole. But it’s still clear from the article that she is advocating for Executive Action on Illegal Immigration.

            1. Speaking of Tony, where is our unloved, unwanted, pet retarded monkey anyway? Is he so butt-hurt that he doesn’t have the strength to fling shit all over the living room? It seems strange, but i just need him to say “bad map, voter ID and the Koch Bro’s”

              1. Maybe he’s off patching the leaks in his old, worn, Obama blow-up doll.

    3. I’m beginning lately to question that libertarian site stuff nowadays.

      1. Sadly, you’re not the only one.

  4. This is where we find out which Libertarians are classical liberals and which ones are just progs who like to smoke dope.

    Blah blah blah blah blah blah. All hate, all the time.

    You’re so tedious.

    1. Sometimes the truth is like that. Too fucking bad if you don’t like it.

    2. Come on Brooks. Let the mask drop and suck Obama’s cock a little bit and tell me how great it is going to be to watch him decide to not enforce an entire area of the law. Come on. This is your big chance.

    3. Because libertarianism would be brilliantly served by executive power to do the right thing unconstrained by checks and balances.

      What could possibly go wrong?

  5. Does the DHS pay you to post this moronic bullshit, or are you just stealing money from the taxpayers by goldbricking all the livelong day?

    1. hey dude, are you really going to die soon? can I get tickets? 😉

      We are SO looking forward to you being the LATE P Brooks!

  6. How about we finally work out a legislative solution? Stopping those welfare-abusing, drug-smuggling, job-stealing, and ungrateful Mexican terrorists should be one of our top priorities.

    Kidding aside, I understand some of the economic and cultural concerns Americans have. I don’t agree with most of them, but we should focus on developing a coherent legal immigration policy. We aggressively push for the free movement of capital, so we must also strive to reduce the restrictions placed on labor in a sensible manner. This is an area where you’d actually like to see some consistency and coordination among the international community.

    1. “Kidding aside, I understand some of the economic and cultural concerns Americans have. I don’t agree with most of them, but we should focus on developing a coherent legal immigration policy.”

      I agree with you on the pure cultural concerns, and while the economic concerns are real and I’ve seen them, I don’t think they are enough to justify are current restrictive polices.

      But there is still the welfare state issue. You absolutely have to ensure that your average legal immigrant pays at least as much in taxes as your average legal immigrant costs in taxes.

      1. Well we don’t do that now, and you sure as hell aren’t going to be able to get that kind of legislation passed so the question is which is more important to you: open borders, or decreasing the size of the welfare state?

        Also forgive me, but I think the fact that a large portion of Houston is Spanish only is a pretty big cultural concern. The fact that I personally am privileged enough to side-step that predicament doesn’t make me hand-wave the problem away.

        1. “open borders with a larger welfare state, or decreasing the size of the welfare state?”


        2. “Well we don’t do that now, and you sure as hell aren’t going to be able to get that kind of legislation passed so the question is which is more important to you: open borders, or decreasing the size of the welfare state?”

          Decreasing the size of the welfare state is more important to me. It would also have to happen before I’d support increased immigration.

          That being said I’m not really an open border advocate, though I would like to see a significant increase to skilled immigration.

      2. Or you could drop the perverse incentive of the welfare state to immigration to the United States for reasons other than economic or security benefits. Less government interference with the markets(reducing the burden of taxation o the market) is preferable to more(making sure we tax the immigrants more).

    2. This is slip shod logic. Nothing requires a supporter of the free movement of capital to support the free movement of labor. That’s the beautiful thing about the free movement of capital and goods, we don’t have to import the labor .

      This is like saying you already gave me a birthday present so now you have to give me two Christmas presents. No go fu&%# yourself and be happy I don’t take my birthday gift back for a refund. Open border enthusiasts are going to screw around and endanger free trade by promoting a middle-class revolt against things like NAFTA.

      1. free movement of capital means that it will not be evenly distributed, and that means that people will have to migrate to gain better access to capital. I.E. The coal is where it is. If you want to benefit from coal mining, you have to move to where the coal is. Likewise, if you want to benefit from more opportunities to better jobs and safer communities, you might have to move to an area with that type of environment. We let people do it freely among the states within the US, why is it not ok to let people do it among nations?

  7. Some factual misrepresentations above. Obama’s stats on deportations
    are false. Even the DHS admits he, unlike any other administration,
    counts voluntary returns at the border as deportations. They are NOT
    and he has deported fewer illegals than any other. Criminals are not even deported! Second, 94% of those invading at the border this summer did not show up for hearings and 90% of the UACs have been delivered to US homes and schools. Even more outrageous Obama has effectively suspended all interior enforcement, criminals are released into communities, sanctuary states and cities ignore the laws, previously deported illegals are being invited back to appeal their deportations, and border control agents are pressured into NOT enforcing the laws. Newsflash: Obama, DHS, DOJ, HHS, DoS, IRS,
    etc. have conspired to enable the maximum number of illegals to
    stay and receive welfare benefits. Any unilateral action by Obama
    which sidesteps statutory law will mark the end of a Constitutional
    republic and install a monarchy for the future. This is not a matter
    of his keeping his work, it is a matter of upholding the rule of law
    and the voice of the American people.

    1. All of this is correct. Some of the lower level federal employees (Border Patrol for one group) have blown the whistle on this.

    2. And anyone who writes on immigration constantly must know this. So she’s dishonest, to boot.

  8. ICE Get Out The Vote Campaign 2016

    1. Once ICE tells me that it will facilitate my return to the United States, what happens?

      If Returning by Land

      The ICE point of contact will work with you to identify your anticipated travel dates and U.S. port of entry and coordinate with CBP so that, upon your arrival, you are allowed into the United States to resume your prior lawful immigration status and/or in order to continue to pursue your case.

      If Returning by Air or Sea

      ICE will contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the country to which you have been removed to prepare transportation documentation. If/when the U.S. Embassy/Consulate issues transportation documentation, ICE will then coordinate with CBP so that, upon your arrival, you are allowed into the United States to resume your prior lawful immigration status and/or in order to continue to pursue your case.

  9. Seeing as how illegal immigration ranked high on the priority list of voters, it is illogical to think granting them amnesty for their illegal actions is a good idea.
    If you are here illegally, and are pissed that you aren’t “getting” what you think you deserve, then leave.
    And before or as you are, look your non adult kids in the eye as tell them you broke the law and apologize.

  10. If Republicans were smart

    , they would let Obo write an E.O. that is objectively unlawful and then impeach the fuck out of his sorry ass. (or at least start going after his minions for other transgressions.)

    1. Also, the R’s could propose legislation that streamlines the immigration process and have it only bar those who are known violent criminals and/or carrying communicable diseases from entry to the country.

      1. Yeah, that’s the ticket, the answer to uncontrolled illegal immigration and the problems it creates is making it so easy to immigrate that they don’t need to be illegal.

        Why didn’t I think of that? I did but realize I was an idiot.

        1. Kind of like decriminalizing marijuana so that you don’t end up putting people in prison for something that harms no one. The system is immoral. It needs to be changed.

          1. Yeah smoking a joint is just like barging into a country you don;t belong and driving wages down and committing multiple crimes. 100% exactly the same – no wonder libertarianism doesn’t get any traction with the voters.

  11. Please fire this woman now, Reason.

  12. Since the President doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to create law from thin air, the answer, dear Reason is a resounding NO! For his to do so is to continue the trend of an overly powerful Executive that runs roughshod over our rights in the face of an emasculated Congress and Legislative. Is this “” anymore or Progressive Shikha’s argument boils down to the very non-reasonable “I WANTS IT NOW!!” argument, and does nothing to address the consequences of such a move on the rest of society.

  13. Some sort of immigration is inevitable. The Dems will probably agree to heightened border enforcement and requiring illegals to pay some back taxes in exchange for a one time amnesty. I would love to see this issue disappear as a national issue.

    The question for Sheika is – if the Republicans can curry favor with Latinos by shifting on immigration, then why wouldn’t they support big government policies like minimum wage hike and nationalized healthcare? After all, most Latinos are reliable progressives on economic issues. George Bush was a “compassionate conservative” and he won something like 40% of Latino support.

    And no, America isn’t Canada. And their “conservative party” isn’t all that conservative or even libertarian.

    1. One time? Or “this time”?

      How many times do we go around on THAT merry-go-round?

      1. It’s sort of amazing how short people’s memories are.

        1. This time will be different, I promise.

    2. I would love to see this issue disappear as a national issue.

      How, when La Raza wants every peasant in Mexico and central America to be able to move here and get on welfare.

  14. Yes he should. then Hillary would be forced to run on protecting an unconstitutional power grab by the President in order to keep illegal aliens from being deported.

    Imagine her saying to the voters: “I am the only thing standing between a Republican Congress and the deportation of illegal aliens”.

    I can hardly wait. I wonder how many Democrats will support that.

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