Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Logic of Executive Discretion in Immigration

Because of the ACA, immigration reform has not been news since it officially died for 2013. However, this McClatchy piece looks more specifically at executive discretion, which has been on the rise. This part caught my eye:

Kevin Johnson, an immigration policy expert who serves as the dean of the University of California, Davis, School of Law, said the president could halt all deportations much the same way a governor could ban executions but that it would be a mistake because angry Republicans would refuse to consider an immigration overhaul. 
“Could he put a moratorium on removals? Yes,” Johnson said. “But politically it would be a disaster. It would end the possibilities for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/01/14/4608588/obama-is-using-executive-power.html#.UtVAQPRDuXV#storylink=cpy

I respect Kevin Johnson's opinion, but I'm not so sure about this. I take that back--yes, if President Obama stopped all deportations, there would be an outcry. But this is the extreme position, and I assume he is really talking about cutting back, which is the preferred policy position of immigration reform supporters.

Basically, I don't think deportations matter for immigration reform. Obama has been deporting people in record numbers, more than any president in the history of the United States, to the point that many of his supporters are really angry. And Republicans rejected immigration reform anyway. Reform is already unlikely in the foreseeable future, and Republicans are already talking about how it won't happen in 2014, so it is not possible for there to be less chance of reform.

Only electoral considerations will make immigration reform possible. The security aspect (i.e. beefed up enforcement) hasn't done it, more deportations haven't done it, humanitarian appeals haven't done it, and calls for common sense haven't done it. The possibility of losing elections is what will ultimately do it. That can't happen now because midterm elections are about the base, and the Republican base is opposed. We will have to see how candidates shake out in the presidential primaries. It may well be that Republicans will have to get trounced in a presidential election to change anything.

How Obama goes about deporting people, though, won't be much of a factor.


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