No one has held President Obama's feet to the fire more consistently on immigration than my colleague, Matt Kolken. There is good reason to believe that Matt's powerful indictment of the president, day after day, for his deportation mania, his administration's detention atrocities, and many other anti-immigrant policies, may have helped to shame Barack Obama into doing an about face on DREAM, by a memo (not an executive order, as some right wing critics are claiming) adopting some of its most important provisions temporarily.. Congratulations to Matt, a modern day Emile Zola.
What else might have motivated President Obama to do the right thing at almost just the last moment before the election? There is obviously quite a bit of hard-nosed political calculation involved. Both sides are finally realizing that Latino voters will play a more important role in this election than ever before (despite desperate attempts by the Republicans to suppress the minority vote in Florida and many other states).
Obama has certainly made a smart political move in distinguishing himself from the Republicans on immigration rights (just as he has on gay rights) as shown by Romney's totally confused and flat-footed response to the president's initiative. Of course, Obama is open to justified criticism for waiting so long. What kind of advisers have been telling him to ramp up deportations to unprecedented levels for the past 3 and 1/2 years? However, it is better to do the right thing late than never. .
While it has taken Barack Obama much too long, i.e. most of his presidency so far, to make his gesture of reason and humanity toward Latino and other minority immigrants, and while there is, unquestionably, cold political calculation involved, the president's move is still welcome and should be applauded. If he were to show some more wisdom and humanity and stop deporting record numbers of immigrants per year, and were willing to make his "prosecutorial discretion" policy binding as well, that would be even more welcome and worthy of applause.
As a famous comedian was said to have answered when he was asked how he felt about growing old, it is still better than the alternative. What is the alternative to Obama on immigration today? Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, Kris Kobach - and - Mitt Romney, who, in the primary, followed the extremist anti-immigrant line, spoke in favor of "self-deportation" for 12 million men, women and children, and now refuses to say whether he would reverse Obama's DREAM initiative if elected president, are enough to provide an answer.
It is very easy to criticize the president on immigration. Despite his welcome but long overdue volte-face on DREAM, he still has a long way to go on immigrant rights. But at least he is making a move in the right direction. In which direction are Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans moving on immigration?
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.