According to an AP story, President Obama has decided to refrain from issuing any executive orders on immigration until after the election. The sources for the story are “two White House officials” who probably are floating the idea as a kind of trial balloon.
The President had promised immigration advocates that he would take action by the end of the summer, so they are disappointed and angry about the President’s decision. The decision is expected to help certain “vulnerable” Democratic Senators who are facing tough reelection campaigns this year. The story reports that the officials said that the President “concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul.” At the same time, the President apparently says he will take executive action, without any congressional involvement, by the end of the year.
Does the President really expect anyone to believe that his decision is an attempt to avoid politicizing the issue? That depiction of his motives is laughably false. It’s obvious that the contrary is true: the President recognizes that immigration is a hot-button issue, and issuing aggressive executive orders is just going to hurt the Democrats who — unlike the President — are facing the voters this November. The effect of the delay in any action by the President is entirely political; it will avoid anyone being held accountable if the voters happen to disagree with whatever edicts the President issues.
We’ve heard lots of talk about people being disenfranchised by policies, for example, that limit early voting. This decision is the functional equivalent of disenfranchisement; it’s just a more duplicitous approach. Wait until after an election to protect incumbents, then have a lame-duck President issue executive orders and hope that voters are focused on some other issues by the time the 2016 election rolls around. Reliance on executive orders of dubious constitutionality to make huge changes to federal law and practices is distorting the political process, encouraging Congress to do nothing except raise more campaign funds, and stripping us of our ability to influence national policy through our votes.
Mr. President, you’re not fooling me, and I doubt that you’re fooling anyone else. If you are going to make huge changes to immigration policy, at least have the guts and fairness to do so before the election, so voters can have their say about your actions.