Completely losing the relationship with the legislative branch after last week’s electoral defeats could very well be a blessing in disguise for Obama and his government when it comes to immigration.
Even though only 8 percent of voters in the past midterms regards immigration as a priority among the important issues afflicting the nation, it is, without a doubt, what will finally give meaning to the historical legacy of Obama in these last two years of his presidency.
The action plan has been decided. Aware of what Hispanics represent both politically and electorally, the immigration issue is going to be constantly on the forefront of the U.S. media’s agenda. The political logic is too obvious, as [exemplified by what] happened last week. If Hispanics do not overwhelmingly vote for the Democrats, they cannot win. This explains what the president said while assessing the damage after the election: With or without support, he will advance his agenda. Meanwhile, Republican leaders say that overriding Congress would only ignite a controversy that jeopardizes the cooperation between the president and the Republican majority.
The White House’s strategy is clear in two respects. Firstly, to let the Republicans act at the legislative level. Being in control of both the House and the Senate, it will be difficult for them to hide the great differences existing within the party, in terms of the ideological distance between the right and radical right. Republicans themselves acknowledge this dilemma. We only need to look at the veto of the immigration reform bill passed by the Democratic-led Senate, but which never saw the light in John Boehner’s Republican Congress. It would be too risky for them to approve a comprehensive immigration reform because the Republican Party base is against it, but on the other hand, not doing anything is also risky because it jeopardizes their chances in 2016.
Secondly, the executive action. Legislators and Democratic leaders, as well as activists from different places, are pressuring Obama to expand his executive action, as he did back in 2012 with the so-called deferred action [for childhood arrivals] (DACA) that allows immigrants who were taken illegally into the U.S. when they were children to stay in the country, study and eventually work there. The details of his next decree are not clear yet, but, supposedly, in December he would extend the same arrangements of [the aforementioned] action to a larger number of the undocumented immigrant population.
Republicans will not allow Obama a political victory: Conservative members of both the House and the Senate are already planning to block him by passing a resolution to fund the government, using language that explicitly forbids the use of federal funds for immigration policies. They know that any step, whether firm or fragile, by himself or with support, is a win over the electorate that has given away their vote for years and which will be, once more, the one which will tilt the scale in favor of the next resident of the White House.