The President’s executive action constitutes a big step forward

“Our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.”

On Thursday, President Barack Obama unveiled executive action that could offer protection for about 4 million from deportation in the United States. Under the plan, those eligible would be required to register themselves with the government, undergo a federal background check and begin paying taxes in exchange for a protected status from deportation for up to three years.

Lili Scarlet Sedano | Daily Trojan

Lili Scarlet Sedano | Daily Trojan

In the absence of any attempt at immigration reform from congressional leaders, Obama’s move to lift the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants is a positive step towards addressing the nation’s dire need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Under the executive action, undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have resided in the country for at least five years would be offered legal reprieve, lifting the threat of deportation and giving them access to work permits. The action would also expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which permits young immigrants under the age of 30 who arrived to the U.S. as children to apply for deportation deferral.

The President’s executive action garnered expected criticism from many of his Republican colleagues, who decried his decision as an unjustifiable use of executive authority. House Speaker John Boehner tweeted that the President was acting like an emperor by imposing the new order. Others, such as incoming majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, blasted the President’s actions, threatening, “If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act.”

Little did Sen. McConnell know that that’s exactly what the President wants him to do. “And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer,” Obama said in Thursday’s address. “Pass a bill.”

Those critiquing the new executive action because they think such matters should be legislated by our representatives and not the president should be addressing the real culprit — Congress itself. The fact of the matter is that Congress had the opportunity to address immigration reform when bipartisan legislation was passed by the Senate last year. The bill stopped with the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, which refused to act. Perhaps now that the party has both the House and the Senate under its control, it finally can.

Congressional leaders should do more than cry executive overstep to address the issue of immigration reform — an argument that really has no legal merit considering several of Obama’s predecessors, including President George H.W. Bush, have taken similar actions with regard to immigration policy in the past. Rather than blast the President’s decisive action, the best course of action for the Republican Party would be to demonstrate that they themselves are capable of passing comprehensive immigration reform that could actually be signed into law.

With a new GOP-controlled Congress coming in, the ball is ultimately in their court. The opportunity for congressional leaders to address the nation’s immigration issue under a unified Congress is approaching — it’d be a shame if they wasted it.

Yasmeen Serhan is a junior majoring in international relations. She is also the special projects editor of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Tuesdays.

3 replies
  1. Bob
    Bob says:

    “Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave. The top priorities for detention and removal, of course, are criminal aliens. But for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process.”
    These are the words of former Texas Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (1936 –1996). Some background: Ms. Jordan was the first black person elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first southern black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was the first black woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery. Her dad was a Baptist preacher and her mother a maid. She was denied admission to the University of Texas, thanks to Jim Crow laws, and attended Texas Southern instead. But most important, when Barbara Jordan spoke, everyone listened regardless of their political affiliation. She was a brilliant and electric orator.
    Rep. Jordan is relevant to the immigration issue because she was appointed Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform by President Clinton. In 1995, after the Commission released its findings and recommendations, Rep. Jordan was called to testify before Congress on the issue of immigration. And the key declaration of the committee she chaired was the statement at top about the importance of deportation to sound immigration policy. This coming from a formerly poor, black, empathetic, brilliant Democrat who, nevertheless, didn’t let her compassion blind her to good policy for our country.
    President Obama, on the other hand, chose to selectively enforce U.S. immigration laws, which is very Latin American and problematic. You see, countries that respect and enforce the rule of law, and expect their leaders to do the same, have the highest living standards in the world. These “first-world” countries include the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Norway, etc. Now compare the living standards of Latin American countries where it’s common, if not expected, for elected leaders and even low level bureaucrats to enforce or ignore laws as they see fit. It’s this crucial cultural difference that we Americans must maintain to keep this country great, and where President Obama failed all of us.

  2. John
    John says:

    The president has usurped the constitution plain and simple. He admitted in the past that he cannot change it unilaterally with a pen and phone, but that is exactly what he is trying to do. He could have done something with Congress and the Senate when he control but he left it alone and only dealt with Obamacare. That is his fault for delaying. The president thinks he can rule by decree and gain favor among Latino voters. He thinks he can save the party by doing this step as well. It won’t work. There can easily be an injunction put in place by SCOTUS or the Congress can defund his initiative and/or shut down the government. This action is amnesty and nothing more. The system is broken but a single individual cannot make the law of the land. The socialist president has went far beyond what any previous president has done.

  3. Liberty Minded
    Liberty Minded says:

    How is public announcing that you are going to selectively enforece the law a “step forward”” The executive must consistently execute the laws as written or convince lawmakers to change them. To do otherwise is anarchy or monarchy. The president is not just a leader of the government. The presidency stands as a role model for all citizens. To announce lawlessness as a policy only invites citizens and non-citizens alike to follow suit.

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