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A Contrast in Reactions to Executive Action: Mainstream Voices Supportive of Sensible Step Forward on Immigration as Right-Wing Goes Apoplectic

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While most observers recognize that the President Obama’s announced executive actions on immigration are sensible, legal, the right thing to do, and good politics, the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party and the conservative echo chamber are apoplectic.  From talk of impeachment to calls for imprisonment; from predictions of ethnic cleansing to visions of civil war; the anti-immigrant movement and their allies are seeming to trip over themselves about who can make the most overheated and dramatic analogy and predictions regarding the president’s lawful and sensible actions (don’t miss Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s threat of a lawsuit – when Arpaio himself is in danger of being held in contempt of court).

Below, we present some of the supportive and measured voices backing president’s announcement and recognizing its merits…followed by just the latest installment of the right wing’s collective freak-out over these sensible, lawful, and important actions.

Supportive Voices

  • Kevin Drum at Mother Jones (turning opponents’ arguments on their head): “The rules of the House of Representatives are clear and well-established.  And past speakers of the House have all used their legislative authority to prevent votes on bills they don’t wish to consider.  Both the law and past precedent are clear: John Boehner is well within his legal rights to refuse to allow the House to vote on the immigration bill passed by the Senate in 2013.  Still, his expansion of that authority makes me uneasy.  After all, this is a case where poll after poll shows that large majorities of the country favor comprehensive immigration reform.  The Senate passed a bipartisan bill over a year ago by a wide margin.  And there’s little question that the Senate bill has majority support in the House too. So not only is the will of Congress clear, but the president has also made it clear that he’d sign the bill if Congress passed it.  The only thing stopping it is one man.  That should make us all a bit troubled. John Boehner may be acting legally.  But is he acting properly?”
  • Jonathan Chait in New York magazine: “After years of legislative muddle, he was able to detach himself completely from Congress and articulate his own values. His remarks, met with rapt attention in immigrant communities, continued his rhetorical tradition of expanding the American family, accurately presenting himself (and, by extension, his party) as an ally to marginalized Americans … He drew an emotional bond between immigrant communities and the Democratic Party’s ideal of compassion and tolerance.  That bond will be his announcement’s most enduring legacy.”
  • EJ Dionne in the Washington Post: “You’d think that Republicans who genuinely support immigration reform would want to prove the president wrong in a different way: by passing a comprehensive bill.  That only a few of them are saying this is an obvious sign to the president’s supporters that Obama is right in suspecting that the House GOP would continue to bob and weave to avoid the issue — as it did for the one year, four months and 24 days between the passage of the genuinely bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate and Obama’s announcement.”
  • Stephen Legomsky in the Wall Street Journal: Legomsky, a law professor at Washington University and former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, writes, “Deferred action gets people out of the shadows and into the open…This population is not about to leave.  They have stuck it out even through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  But because they have not been authorized to work, unscrupulous employers know they can hire them at shockingly low wages.  This not only gives employers an incentive to hire them over U.S. job seekers, it also depresses the market wages for all workers.  By permitting these individuals to work legally, the president’s actions take away both of those perverse incentives.  That’s good news for them and all U.S. workers.”
  • Paul Krugman in the New York Times: “The real question, then, is how we’re going to treat them.  Will we continue our current regime of malign neglect, denying them ordinary rights and leaving them under the constant threat of deportation?  Or will we treat them as the fellow Americans they already are?  The truth is that sheer self-interest says that we should do the humane thing.  Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors.  Condemning them to life in the shadows means that they will have less stable home lives than they should, be denied the opportunity to acquire skills and education, contribute less to the economy, and play a less positive role in society.  Failure to act is just self-destructive.”
  • Mike Barnicle in the Daily Beast: “In the early morning before school begins, many children arrive holding the hand of a parent who is in America without documents.  The parents are wild with pride because their kids attend a fine parochial school in an old, battered New England city where the public school system is in virtual collapse.  The parents are also acutely aware that due to the fact they have no papers they are prime targets for the mentally ill wing of a Republican Party that is so obsessed with Barack Obama’s every action that it has seemingly forgotten or willfully ignored the foundation of the nation they claim to represent.”
  • Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times: “What most defines the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America is not illegality but undaunted courage and ambition for a better life.  What separates their families from most of ours is simply the passage of time — and the lottery of birth.”
  • Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post: “If this were a perfect world and congressional Republicans were rational (I know, LOL), they would see that what President Obama laid out on immigration reform on Thursday and Friday provides a window for them to stop his plans before they start, solve a legitimate national issue and curry favor with a needed constituency. It all goes back to what the president has consistently said:  ‘Pass a bill.’”
  • Jim Wallis in the Huffington Post: “The next Congress could still pass immigration reform under its Republican leadership.  And I’ll be the first person standing next to them if they’re ready to build on what the president has accomplished today and pass a more permanent solution.  But until Congress stops letting politics hurt real people, many of us in the faith community will be steadfast in our thanks to President Obama for the relief he has provided to millions of people whose lives are a pawn in Washington’s political dysfunction.”

Opposing Voices

In contrast, here’s what conservatives and anti-immigrant extremists have been saying in the last few days (many of the links courtesy of Right Wing Watch).  It’s ugly, it’s out of hand, and it will absolutely hurt Republicans with Latino voters in 2016 and beyond:

  • Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has even suggested that he wants to imprison the President for potentially aiding and abetting undocumented immigrants.  (Also check out this video from over the weekend where MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asks Brooks about former President Reagan’s executive actions and Brooks literally replies, “I have not examined what Bill Clinton did.”)
  • A number of Republicans are lining up to sue the President, including Kris Kobach (who compared executive action to “socialism” and “ethnic cleansing”) and Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who should really worry about the law closer to home, as he is in danger of being in contempt of court).
  • Potential presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) compared Obama’s executive action to the WWII internment order against Japanese-Americans — which came back to haunt him when Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who spent time in internment camps as a child, released a statement slamming Paul.
  • The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector has estimated that executive action will cost the nation $2 trillion over the lifetime of its beneficiaries: “with the expected earnings for an individual with that level of education…the amnestied immigrants will take vastly more out than they will contribute to those programs.”  Rector and Jason Richwine are of course the authors of last year’s infamously flawed Heritage Foundation report, which claimed that the Senate immigration bill would cost $6 trillion and which came under heavy fire after Richwine was discovered to have written about how “no one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites.”