Reform by decree: 5 million undocumented immigrants will be given legal status and will be shielded from deportation, while the Republicans aimlessly consider their counterattacks.
Barack Obama is no longer beating around the bush. He will enact immigration reform and will do so by decree, signing an executive order that will bypass Congress. He himself announced his plan in a 15-minute prime-time speech, which was aired by only some of the major television networks. Obama’s plan is to grant amnesty to 5 million undocumented immigrants who have been living in the United States for quite some time. Undocumented immigrants are celebrating this victory, especially Latinos, the group that will benefit the most from the reform. It comes as no surprise that the Republicans are furious and accuse Obama of acting like an “emperor.”
A Reform Announced Some Time Ago
Obama first announced his plan some time ago. However, it has taken quite a long time to put it into action. Although he has been promising to reform immigration policy for years, it never happened because he was waiting for Congress to start putting his plan in motion, but Capitol Hill never proceeded with the reform. The Republicans have always blocked it.
The Republicans seemed ready to compromise only after their defeat in 2012 (Obama owes his victory to monitories, who voted for him en masse), but this never happened. After the GOP won the midterm election, Obama realized that it would be even more difficult to pass a reform in line with his way of thinking. So he is using his power to force a reform.
He was spurred on by the promises he made and never followed through on (until now), and with 2016 on his mind. The next Democratic candidate for the White House — Hillary Clinton — will possibly benefit from a sizable reservoir of Latino voters, as millions are expected to see their immigration status legalized in the years to come. If these immigrants become American citizens, they will show their gratitude when they vote. In any case, the relatives and friends these immigrants have in the United States, who already have the right to vote, will show their gratitude.
The Republicans’ Counterattacks
The Republicans have been thinking about this treasure trove of votes, but tensions between the various factions of the party always prevented them from taking action. The barrage of opponents to immigration reform has drowned out those who say that action must be taken to avoid giving away these votes to Democrats. In the end, slowpoke Obama was actually faster than the Republicans, who could not manage to develop a strategy for dealing with this issue.
The GOP must react if they do not wish to lose out. They could do something. As they have the majority of seats in Congress, they could enact their own reform. Jeb Bush, a possible presidential candidate for 2016, has been pushing for action. Bush stated, “President Obama has once again put divisive and manipulative politics before the sober leadership and sound laws required of an exceptional nation. It is time for Republican leaders in Congress to act. We must demonstrate to Americans we are the party that will tackle serious challenges and build broad-based consensus to achieve meaningful reforms for our citizens and our future.”*
Statistics show that there are around 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The reform will “save” around half of this mass of men, women and children by giving them legal status. These 5 million undocumented immigrants, the target of Obama’s reform, will escape “deportation,” or forced repatriation, which is a real social issue: fathers and mothers separated from their children. The former may be sent back to their home countries, while the latter, born on American soil, would be doomed to remain in the United States without their parents.
Who Will Reform Help?
Obama’s reform will provide a three-year work permit to undocumented immigrants that have been living in the United States for more than five years, or have a child that was either born on American soil or has legal permanent residency. The undocumented immigrant must pass a criminal background check, but unlike in the past, authorities will only consider a person’s criminal record, not a family’s criminal record as a whole.
Obama has kept his promise; now the ball is in the Republicans’ court. The president has challenged them to pass new legislation. This will not be easy for the GOP: They have to heed both Latino voters and white conservatives, who are not favorable to accepting an immigration invasion. How can they keep both sides happy concerning immigration in view of the 2016 election?
*Editor's Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.