President Barack Obama made history Thursday night but the major networks refused to cover it. The President announced his executive order that will free some five million hard working people from living in fear of deportation. Obama’s immigration order made history because of the large number of individuals who will benefit from it. Lincoln’s executive order, called the Emancipation Proclamation, freed 3 million slaves.
Obama’s executive order does several things. One, it beefs up border security. Second, it provides differed prosecution to millions of immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years, have children born in the U.S., or who came here as children themselves (the Dreamers). They must pass a criminal background check, register and pay taxes. While they are under deferred prosecution, they will be given a permit so they can work legally and pay taxes. (Most undocumented immigrants actually have taxes withheld from their pay, but the money often never gets reported or paid to the IRS and Social Security Administration.)
In addition, it will end the practice by unscrupulous employers who pay undocumented workers less just because they can. This will end exploitation of immigrants by allowing them to be paid what they are worth and get credit for the taxes they pay.
Instead of breaking up families and targeting law abiding immigrants for deportation, the administration will now focus on deporting gang members, criminals, and individuals who have recently arrived without documentation.
While millions of immigrants and their families feel relief, Republicans were on the verge of a meltdown, calling Obama’s executive order unconstitutional, unlawful, and the worst act ever taken by an elected official. Senator Rand Paul said he would block it by any means necessary, using words made famous by Malcolm X. Speaker Boehner said all options are on the table, a not-so-veiled threat of impeachment. Senator Colburn (R-OK) predicted that the American people will go nuts, predicting anarchy and violence in the streets.
Obama’s executive order could potentially benefit about 41 percent of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Despite the Republican freak-out, this is about the same percentage of immigrants who benefited by an executive order issued by President George H.W. Bush. Other Republican presidents including Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, and George W. Bush used executive orders on immigration. Republicans were ok with those. When Obama did the very same thing, Republicans call it unlawful, unconstitutional, and tyrannical.
Despite all the Republican claims that Obama’s action is unlawful, they are wrong. The constitution gives the president the authority to handle prosecution of lawbreakers. This has been adjudicated and upheld by the Supreme Court. The Republicans who are threatening to sue lack standing, and would not likely prevail. Republicans will probably resort to one of their standard practices when they disagree with a Democratic president—shutting down the government or impeachment.
Passing immigration reform would negate the executive order, but it is the last thing Republicans will do. They have put themselves in a box.
Prominent Republicans have remained silent when fellow Republicans make vitriolic statements about immigrants of Latino origin. Fox News commentators, radio talk show hosts, bloggers, and Rep. Steven King, Michelle Bachmann and others have berated Latino immigrants, calling them drug runners and Ebola carriers.
Republicans constantly stir up their base by referring to immigration reform as “amnesty” This has created an anti-immigrant attitude in the Republican base, making it impossible for any Republican to vote for immigration reform. The outrage being expressed by Republicans at Obama is nothing more than pandering to the base whose attitudes they created.
The only candidate to actually grant amnesty was Ronald Reagan. Facts are pesky things.
Meanwhile, millions of people who came to America for the same reason all our ancestors did—to provide a better life for their children—will now be able to come out in the open, work legally, pay taxes and send their children off to school without fear they will not be there when the children come home.
President Obama said that we are a nation of immigrants and allowing millions to live in fear is not who we are as Americans. Now, we will wait to see if he is impeached for this courageous action, or if Republicans will punish the entire nation to show how much they hate Barack Obama.
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