On Nov. 20, U.S. President Barack Obama circumvented the Republican-controlled House and Senate, and issued a decree pushing for administrative reforms to the United States’ immigration system. During his staged announcement, President Obama also singled out the ineffectiveness of the United States Congress.
After the Democratic Party’s midterm elections failure, Obama is opting to ignore the fact that he has become a loner in Congress. He has pushed these reforms through using the controversial “presidential executive order,” and this move has set tongues wagging, raised controversies and made manifest his intentions: He wants to build on his “political legacy,” build up popularity for the Democratic Party and set up a strategy for the upcoming presidential election in two years’ time.
This immigration deal will benefit five million of the total 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States. If we carefully investigate the various ethnic characteristics of these “illicit households,” we will discover that the one group which is most likely to benefit from the new reforms will be undocumented migrants from Latin America. Many within this demographic were smuggled across the U.S. border when they were children. Some have even been educated within the United States but, owing to their “illegal” status, they remain within the Hispanic ethnic community and they are profoundly affected by such living conditions.
Hispanic voices are attracting greater attention in light of the coming general election. In 2000, Hispanics made up 12.5 percent of the United States population. In 2010 that figure increased to 16.3 percent, making Hispanics both the largest and the fastest growing ethnic minority in the United States.
The United States Census Bureau predicts that by the year 2050, Hispanics will be the largest ethnic group in the United States, with approximately one in three people in the U.S. being Hispanic. With the most recent general elections, a significant proportion of the traditionally loyalist voter bases for both Republicans and Democrats has been changing, and there is now a “pervasive Hispanic presence” among them. Any move one party makes to help 5 million undocumented migrants will also help them attain the voting support of the U.S.’ future number one ethnic group. Insofar as paying bribes for future benefit is concerned, Obama’s move has racked up some significant brownie points.
But if this is true, why then did Obama not bring out this immigration deal before the midterm elections? The Democratic Party well knows that the midterm elections for Obama’s second term in office are an extremely important affair. Losing further control of both houses of Congress means the final two years of Obama’s reign are unlikely to amount to anything monumental. But, rather than take out the immigration reform lure and dangle it during the midterm elections, it would be better to save it to catch the bigger fish later on. The next general election is still two years away. The next two years require an effective plan, and this immigration policy is just that; the timing is ripe, then, for pulling it out right now. Two years will allow a large percentage of those five million “illicit households” to finish their immigration formalities. Yet there will undoubtedly be some who still have not finished their immigration proceedings, and even those who do not qualify for permission to stay. There will be many who will be grateful to the Democrats for removing their “illegal” status, and also those who will be bound to look forward to the continuation of the Democratic Party’s policies. This policy on immigration will allow the Democratic Party to play on the heartstrings of Hispanic voters. In light of the opportunities it affords them, this move by the Democratic Party is a deal clincher.
As for the Republican Party, which now controls both houses of Congress, although they threaten to withdraw funding on all immigration matters, threaten to shut down the government, and even threaten legal proceedings against Obama for unconstitutional abuse of power, the Democratic Party can just sit back and wait with eager anticipation. Republican Party members now suffer from that fear all sinners have: if they cast any stones at the Democrats now, it will only work to the Democrats’ benefit. In addition to this, last year the Republican Party decided to “shut down” the government, and to date U.S. citizens remain bitter over that affair. As for the matter of starting up a lawsuit, Republicans and Democrats are both clear on this point: it wouldn’t be impossible to do, but it would take at least three to five years for the courts to reach a decision on the case. By that time, Obama will already be back at home and growing old.
From a strategic point of view then, this move by the Democratic Party is without peer. It is masterful in its precision and execution. This chess move of Obama’s has, at most, become a focal point for future wars of words between the U.S.’ two major political parties. Moreover, in terms of actual substance, this move is unlikely to bring about any large political ramifications. With both the general election and the thorny issue of Hispanic voters at hand, the Republican Party is left reeling, and must now carefully weigh any form of counterattack.