President Obama has been accused of many things, but refusing to adopt Republican ideas is not one of the charges that can be made against him with much justification. Looking back to ancient history, namely last week's two major Supreme Court decisions, one has to ask whether the decisions in the health care case and the Arizona immigration law case would have been anywhere near the same if Obama had stuck to Democratic principles from the start..
With regard to health care reform, all of Obama's difficulties were due to his acceptance of the Republican idea of an individual mandate to buy private health insurance. If Obama had stuck to his own party's idea of a single-payer system, it would have been immune to Constitutional attack, as even most right wing commentators admit.
As far as the Arizona immigration law case is concerned, there might have been no such lawsuit, and no Arizona SB 1070 law to attack, if Obama had stuck to principle from the beginning. But It was his administration, and specifically his Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, who originally put Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in business big time by granting or extending his authority under INA Section 287(g) to round up and and lock up Mexicans suspected of being in the US without permission.
Once Arpaio had been given federal authority, as a deputized agent of the Obama administration, to lock up as many brown, Spanish-speaking people as he could find, in desert tents, he was understandibly reluctant to give up his power. Yet that is exactly what he had to do when DHS finally revoked his Section 287(g) authority to make arrests and roundups. Arizona's SB 1070 was Arpaio's revenge, his attempt to get power from the state which the federal government had given him and then tried to take away..
All this is by way of introduction to my prediction that when Barack Obama, shortly before noon on Monday, January 21, 2013, takes his last ride as president in a car together with President-elect Mitt Romney on the way to the latter's inauguration as America's 45th president, Obama will do so graciously, and with full knowledge that he had leaned over backward during his single term as president to accommodate many of his successor's ideas, including an extreme right wing, "enforcement only" policy on immigration.
There is almost no chance that Obama will be in that car by himself, on the way to make his second inauguration speech. The November 2012 presidential and Congressional elections will not be like any other nationwide elections that the US has had in living memory.
The Washington Post has a long story about the huge efforts of Obama's super-pac after many months of trying to reach the goal of only $100 million in contributions. The same paper also reports that Romney raised the same amount in just one month, and that he is on target, with the help of only a very few billionaires such as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, to reach at least $800 million.
Other reports say that the Republican super-pacs expect to raise at least $1 billion for this election, most of it from a few super-wealthy donors. No election campaign can possibly survive that kind of funding disparity.
The other factor which is destroying any hope that this election will be compatible with democracy is voter suppression. An article in the Huffington Post estimates that ten percent of all voters in Pennsylvania, normally a Democratic state, will be disenfranchised by that state's new voter ID law, enacted by the Republican governor and legislature. Most of the disenfranchised voters will be minorities and the less affluent, who usually vote Democratic. Keeping Democratic voters away from the polls is now also official policy in Florida and many other important swing states.
However, why should this cause any concern among immigrant rights supporters? Don't we already have a president who is deporting record numbers of minority immigrants, breaking up countless families of US citizens who may have an unauthorized immigrant spouse or parent, inflicting police state activities such as "Secure Communities" on the nation and savagely punishing employers who dare to commit the "crime" of hiring legal immigrants, by investigations and fines that are only meant to intimidate them?
Things cannot possibly become any worse for immigrants than they already are. Only a fool would want to keep on making the same mistake for another four years. This is a view that is forcefully and eloquently argued by some of my most respected colleagues.
But this is a head in the sand view. If this fall's rigged election results in a Romney victory, as it almost certainly will, Immigration policy will be at the mercy of right wing extremists who may make the Obama administration, with its 400,000 deportations per year, its Secure Communities, its immigration detention horrors, its investigations and fines imposed against employers who are trying to follow the law, its RFE's, petition denials and unconscionable visa delays and refusals, look like a golden age of American immigration by comparison. I will discuss this in more detail in future comments.
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.