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Opinion Leaders Say It's Time for Obama to Take Executive Action on Immigration

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Immigration news took over front pages nationwide this week with reports that Obama’s much-anticipated executive action for immigrants is coming — and soon.  Republicans kicked into high gear, with all sorts of colorful and fiery metaphors, about their intentions to battle Obama.  But as leading editorial boards and other pundits are saying,  the time for Obama to act is now.  Millions of immigrants who have already waited too long need stability in their lives today, and the country needs to see progress on some issues of national importance.  Below, view a sample of recent commentary:

New York Times editorial says that when it comes to executive action, “the bigger the better”:

“Our view on executive action is: the sooner the better, and the bigger the better, because so many have been waiting so long for the unjust immigration system to be repaired, while vast resources have been wasted on deporting needed workers and breaking up families instead of pursuing violent criminals and other security threats…

“For all the protestations of presidential tyranny, Congress has more power than Mr. Obama to make meaningful immigration changes. His adversaries won’t admit it, but they could have — and still could — banish talk of executive action by dusting off a bill, S.744, that has passed the Senate and contains all they have been demanding, starting with a surge of border enforcement.

“The president cannot rewrite immigration law. But he does control the enforcement apparatus; no Republicans have complained about his using executive authority to deport more people more quickly than all his predecessors. Using his discretion to focus on deporting violent criminals, terrorists and other threats is not lawlessness. It is his job.”

Boston Globe editorial highlights the human costs of inaction — the hundreds of immigrant families that face deportation and separation every day that passes by without relief:

“By taking action through an executive order, the president signals to a fractious Congress, where immigration legislation has been stalled for years, that humanitarian concerns must, in the end, be weighed against the costs of inaction. Despite the political risks, it’s the right decision, one that will keep families together and allow many undocumented immigrants a chance to come out of the shadows…

“The best case against the president taking action independent of Congress relies on the premise that Republicans do plan to pass immigration reform eventually, and that easing up on deportations now would somehow undermine that plan. But, even with executive action, Republican leadership can and should still tackle immigration reform legislation. In an interview with CBS News last week, Obama said Congress still has time to pass a bill, adding that legislation would supersede any administrative orders he might issue. The problem is that neither Speaker John Boehner nor likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have listed immigration reform as a priority. Any threatening talk coming from Republicans — McConnell cautioned that executive action would be like “waving a red flag in front of a bull,” while Boehner said that “when you play with matches, then you take the risk of burning yourself” — lacks credibility in the absence of a real intention to solve the immigration reform puzzle themselves.

“The political fallout on immigration will be volatile. But the human cost of inaction — the families upended,the lives disrupted — is much greater.”

An editorial at La Opinión cautions Republicans against linking immigration to budget actions:

“The Republican caucus in Congress has bills to link the federal budget extension, which expires on December 11, to the enactment of the executive order. Specifically, lawmakers are seeking to prevent the implementation of an alleged legalization by forbidding the use of federal funds for the staff and supplies needed to produce more work permits and resident cards.

“Fortunately, not all Republicans want to link the budget to immigration. We hope they prevail, for the good of all of us. A crisis that threatens a government shutdown is the worst that can happen to our country and to Republicans in particular.

“The time for Obama to fulfill his promise seems to be near, and the leaked plan is positive and broad. Now it just needs to be introduced officially. The political firestorm will be tough, but it is for a good cause.”

Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post’s “The Fix” points out the fact that Latino voters will see such an overreaction as an attack on their communities, and 2016 is right around the corner:

“Longer term, the hope in Obama world is that an executive order further cements the Democratic party as the exclusive (or close to it) home for Hispanic voters.  (An aggressive response to the Obama executive order by Republicans — particularly if it veers from talking about Obama into talking about the Latino community in a negative way — could well help that process along too.) Democratic House candidates won the Hispanic vote 62 percent to 38 percent in 2014, according to national exit polls. That’s actually a considerable improvement from the 29 percent of the Latino vote Republican nominee Mitt Romney got in 2012.

“There is real long term political danger here for Republicans. Remember that in the wake of Romney’s defeat, the Republican National Committee commissioned an autopsy to diagnose what went wrong for their side — and how to fix it. One of the central conclusions of that document was that Republicans needed to be for some sort of comprehensive immigration reform in order to take that issue off the table for Hispanics, and allow the GOP to talk to that community about other things…

“Obama is moving a major chess piece with his executive order.  Republicans must be careful with their countermove.  It will have implications that last well beyond 2014 — or even 2016.”

And finally, Francis Wilkinson at Bloomberg View noted that Republicans are already lining up to outdo each other over opposition to executive action, without proposing any solutions of their own:

“Members of Congress speak constantly of their opposition to ‘amnesty.’ They almost never mention the real-world consequence of denying amnesty to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.: ‘deportation’…

There are, after all, a finite number of answers to the question of what to do about millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.:

1. You can offer them a path to legalization and/or citizenship.

2. You can deport them.

3. You can maintain the status quo, in which the undocumented remain in the U.S. without legal rights or recognition (and perhaps ‘self deport’ in accord with the wishes of Mitt Romney)…

Sessions, who along with Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas represents the hard end of anti-immigrant views in the Senate, shrinks from saying he supports deportation. He loudly condemns the status quo. And he’s virulently opposed to amnesty…

[The GOP is] just too embarrassed to say out loud what exactly they’re a force for.

“On immigration, President Obama is planning to trade paralysis for progress.  That’s a good thing for immigrants, and a good thing for the country,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.