The White House announced that it will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives.
Had the legislative process been honored rightly, I too would have cheerfully given my personal endorsement of the rule change. However, we don't get to change law based on personal prerogatives because we are all, as Americans, duty bound to honor the legislative process outlined in our constitution. It was poorly done and political headwinds are sure to follow the president’s actions, which compromise an effective long-term policy approach to a desperately needed reform.
For many of us who are immigrants, or sons and daughters of immigrants, we value the American Dream, an opportunity to prosper in a country that values the rule of law. From what I have read thus far, this new initiative intends to partially achieve the goals of the so-called DREAM Act. It seems - given the timing and targeted constituency - a politically driven attempt to turn attention away from the lagging economy affecting the country at large, particularly Hispanics.
It’s not looking good, and it shows. With record job losses and unemployment, add to that a record number of deportations, this Administration does not have much to latch on to with the Hispanic community. The majority of Hispanics, 53 percent, already believe that they have achieved the American Dream, but they are highly pessimistic about the next generation, with only 36 percent saying their children will be better off financially. While the policy shift is set to benefit an estimated 800,000 immigrant youth, it’s hard to tell if this initiative is in the least a partial solution to reversing the economic crisis.
Hispanics have been disproportionately affected with an 11 percent unemployment rate compared to 8.2 percent nationwide and it’s taking a political toll on the administration’s chances with Hispanics this November. But what is worse than the obvious political posturing to a critical voting bloc, is that this brazen attempt to collect votes in an election year undermines the rule of law.
Immigration policies should be market driven, not politically motivated. The foundation of individual liberty is rule of law, not what is politically expedient. More importantly, federal immigration reform must be hammered out by those elected by the people to be our voice in Congress, not the act of one person. It is pandering, it is dangerous, and it is not the American way.
While I would be the first to argue that the current law is broken and must be reformed, we must resist the temptation to blindly applaud the means. This act is a clear violation of the separation of powers, even when we agree with the intended end. The president’s actions ignore constitutional limitations, single handedly bypasses Congress, and ignores current immigration law.
At one point the president agreed. During a Univision town hall in Washington, D.C. in March 2011, he stated he could not act unilaterally on this matter, "With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed." He was right to say so. Yet today, he asserts this conduct without regard to constitutional limitations.
While it is true that our country could stand to benefit from a talented labor pool of young, law-abiding immigrants that contribute to a vibrant economy, it should be effective and long-term in its scope, and it must be done right.
Daniel Garza is Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative and former Associate Director at the Office of Public Liaison for The White House. You can learn more about The LIBRE Initiative by visiting their website at www.thelibreinitiative.com.
Daniel Garza is the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative and former White House staffer from 2001-2006.