Bloggings on Immigration Law
by Roger Algase
Before John F. Kennedy became president, he wrote a best - selling book called "Profiles in Courage". If someone were writing a book today about Barack Obama's policy on immigration, it would have to be called "Profile in Cowardice". From the moment Obama appointed enforcement-only hard liner former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano as head of the Department of Homeland Security, it was clear that his adminstration would be dominated by fear and trembling toward anti-immigrant extremists. As a result, our Nation of Immigrants has turned into Deportation Nation, and the Land of the Free has become the Land of the RFE.
For too long, too many of us have been willing to make excuses for Obama's anatomical deficiency with respect to immigration. We have been willing to swallow the snake oil that he needs to position himself as tough on enforcement and stingy on granting visas in order to put through a "grand bargain" on immigration reform - something that will happen only when the Tea Party comes out in favor of a 90 per cent tax rate on the Brothers Koch. We have been fed specious legalistic arguments to the effect that the president supposedly lacks executive authority to act on his own to remedy abuses in an immigration system that has itself become a synonym for abuse.
But if there is any example of a statute that turns almost everything over to the executive branch to set policy by regulation or interpretation, it is the INA. Obama's insistence that he can do little or nothing to remedy outrages such as deporting DREAMERS or long standing lawful permanent residents convicted of DUI is absurd to the point of travesty, especially coming from a former constitutional law professor.
(Not that DUI is a good thing - most definitely it is not - but what will be next on the deportation list - jaywalking? And it is not exactly a secret that deporting DUI immigrants is only part of the larger goal of kicking out anyone caught DWL - Driving While Latino).
Up to now, the fact that Obama's immigration policy showed his lack of an essential part of his anatomy, one that every man takes for granted, was impacting mainly the pro-immigrant community. It was not directly affecting the wider public. To the contrary, "getting tough" on immigrants is wildly popular with a large part of the public. But now, all Americans (and everyone else in this country, or even outside it) may be about to pay a terrible price for the president's anatomical shortcoming.
President Obama's basic attitude of "when in doubt, sell out" is now being writ large. It has metastized beyond immigration into the nation's economy as a whole. The same Tea Party fanatics who seriously think that this country has the resources to deport 12 million people, and who want to take away birthright citizenship guaranteed by the 14th Amendment from millions of American born children of Spanish - speaking, Asian or black parents, are now out to destroy Social Security, Medicare and any other government program that benefits the middle class and the less well off, by forcing the government to run out of money.
Ending all social programs and concentrating wealth in the hands of the richest Americans - those are the real goals of the movement to stop a raise in the debt ceiling at all costs. Of course, if the debt ceiling is not raised, immigration benefits will be affected. If the government doesn't have money for Social Security checks, does anyone in his or her right mind think there will be money to approve immigration petitions or issue visas? - Immigration, obviously, will also be prioritized - fences, incarceration and deportation, SI! Visas and green cards, NO!
But beyond that, the Tea Partiers and other right wing radicals are trying to use the debt ceiling to bring down the Obama presidency. If America defaults on its debts and the result is a depression that would make the 1930's look like a boom period by comparison, they are hoping that Obama and the Democrats will be blamed and thrown out of power next year.
On the other hand, if Obama defends himself, and the country, by relying on the same 14th Amendment (Section 4) to protect America's credit, the Republicans, without question, will try to impeach him for alleged abuse of power. Of course, given that the Senate is still controlled by the Democrats, the chances of his being removed from office through impeachment are absolutely zero.
Should that not be enough assurance that Obama would have nothing to lose by announcing immediately that if the Tea Party blocks an increase in the debt ceiling, as it obviously intends to do, he will use the 14th Amendment to save America, if not the entire world, from financial collapse? There is a powerful, if not irrefutable, constitutional argument that he not only has the right, but the duty, to do so. Then what is stopping him? Every moment that he hesitates disrupts the world's markets more and brings financial Armageddon (to use his own phrase) even closer.
It is clear what is stopping the president from taking this obvious step. He is afraid that someone on Fox News or in the Wall Street Journal might say something unfriendly about him. He may even be afraid of impeachment in the Republican-controlled House, just before next year's election. Of course, it would be nice if he can avoid this. But what would that amount to, compared to a possible collapse of the financial system? Nothing.
Unfortunately, we already know the answer. If President Obama's cave-in to the Tea Party and other right wing bigots on immigration is any indication, he will not have the guts to stand up to save America from financial collapse either. The sad truth is that, as I have been saying ad nauseam, Obama lacks an essential part of his anatomy. Everyone reading this comment has no doubt guessed which missing part I mean, but I will say it anyway - Obama has no backbone.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.