There was once a time when every schoolchild in America knew the stories of Homer's immortal epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which were at the foundation of western civilization, before the Iliad and the Odyssey were replaced as cultural icons by the i-pad and Oracle some three thousand years later. As a dwindling number of classics professors may still recall today in the isolation of their ivory towers, the long history of the fall of Troy, described in the Iliad, and of the even longer time it took for Odysseus to return to his home and kingdom in Ithaca begins with the single word: "wrath" ("meinin"), which is the first word of the Iliad in the original Greek. In English, the first line of the Iliad begins: "Sing, Goddess, the wrath of Achilles".
Achilles was a hero. True, he had to be goaded into battle, which, like another great warrior, Arjuna, in the equally famous Indian epic, the Mahabharata, Achilles was initially reluctant to engage in. However, the initial refusals of both Achilles and Arjuna to fight were based on their strongly held principles (though quite different ones in the two cases).
But if Homer were alive today and asked to sing the epic of America in the Age of Obama, it would most likely start with the line: "Produce, TV Anchor, a show about the cowardice of Barack Obama." One of the main themes of this production would have to be immigration.
In the Iliad, the famous Trojan Horse (and I am not referring to the computer virus) comes into play near the end of the epic, leading directly to the final destruction of Troy. But Barack Obama began his presidency with an immigration Trojan Horse, containing an army of "enforcement-only" troops led by the DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. She and her little band of anti-immigrant officials have since done everything they can to ravage America's citadel of immigration.
During the past nearly three years, Obama has stood by cravenly while his officials have gutted America's immigration system, by deporting record numbers of non-criminal immigrants, breaking up their families which often include American spouses and children, lying to the states about the purpose of monstrosities such as "Secure Communities" (which was initially foisted on state and local officials through a ruse known as a "Memorandum of Agreement" - now revealed by ICE to have been just as much of a hoax as the original Trojan Horse), and, when all else fails, simply refusing to carry out laws providing for legal immigration benefits.
What else could explain Obama's standing by gutlessly, while rogue officials in the US Department of Labor announce, as they did this week, that they will disregard the law by suspending all future PERM prevailing wage determinations sine die, thereby effectively wrecking the entire permanent employment labor certification system? What else could explain the president' failure to fire the USCIS officials who arrogantly twisted the law in order to deny H-1B visas to computer professionals, mainly from India, who happen to work off site?
What craven fear of the restrictionist lobby is making the president stand by while tens of thousands of meritorious work visa petitions are held up by specious RFE's or denied for no good reason at all, while employers with approved petitions tremble in fear of DHS investigators looking to see if a box on an I-9 form was not properly checked? Why is Obama, like Achilles at the beginning of the Iliad, sulking in his oval office tent, while the rights of immigrants whom he once promised to protect from being made scapegoats are trampled on all around him by his own officials?
What anatomical deficiency is stopping the president from standing up to protect all, not just a few, of the students from deportation who would have benefited from the DREAM Act, which failed because he did not lift a finger to keep his own party in line when the vote came up in the Senate last year? Why is our president evidently so terrified of the anti-immigrant bigots who are trying to sack our immigration system as surely as the Greeks sacked Troy, that, just as Helen of Troy did in Virgil's epic poem when Aeneas caught up with her, Obama is crouching and hiding, instead of taking action to help the immigrants whose rights he once promised to protect? Sing, Goddess, the gutlessness of Barack Obama.
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.