Obama's Executive Order Is Good News, But Not the Solution
The president's policy is good news, but is not a long-term solution to the large immigration problem
June 19, 2012
The Obama executive order is great news for many young "dreamers" and their families—great, great news. It will change a lot of lives in the short term, giving a generation of young people a measure of hope for the future.
If only it were as good as it seems—if only it were a real solution.
The problem: It's a short-term stopgap—it only postpones these young people's day of reckoning with U.S. immigration authorities. Any real, long-term solution still has to go through Congress—and it has to be bipartisan. And President Barack Obama's brazenly partisan political act only makes that harder.
Lyndon B. Johnson used to ask fellow lawmakers "Do you want a bill or an issue?"—do you want to work together on a solution or do you want to turn the problem into a wedge issue? His important point: It's a choice. Once you head in the wrong direction, it's very difficult to get back on the right track. The Obama order only makes immigration more of a political football—a weapon for Democrats and Republicans to use against each other in November, rather than something they're working to solve together. And in the long run, this will make it more difficult to reach a compromise on the real solution thousands of young people need to live full, productive lives in America.
How ironic—because this was the one aspect of immigration on which Republicans have recently been looking for a compromise. Republicans Marco Rubio in the Senate and David Rivera in the House have both signaled their willingness to come to the table and work with Democrats on a modified, bipartisan version of the DREAM Act. If the president had responded to their overtures, Democrats and Republicans might have been able to come together after the election to craft and pass a workable long-term answer. But Obama chose instead to take political advantage of the issue.
[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should Foreign STEM Graduates Get Green Cards?]
This isn't just about young people eligible for the DREAM Act or the Obama order. The same goes for fixing the legal immigration system so that it works for all Americans—citizens, immigrants, and employers who rely on immigrant workers, skilled and unskilled, to keep their businesses growing and contributing to the economy. Passionate and divided as Americans are about unauthorized immigrants, the real heart of immigration reform is fixing the legal system—creating enough legal visas, adjusting legal quotas, streamlining bureaucracy—so that it works to boost the U.S. economy. And every time a politician, Democrat or Republican, uses immigration as a wedge issue, it becomes that much harder for legislators to compromise on fixes to the legal system that will contribute to our prosperity.
The Obama order is great political theater—it may even work in November. But it won't help America come to grips with the long-term challenges or opportunities of immigration.