Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Obama and Immigration

Recently a cache of President Reagan's personal note cards came to light. They included little stories and jokes that he incorporated into his speeches. An example is:

"If you get up earlier in the morning than your neighbor — work harder — scheme more & stick to the job more closer — stay up later planning to get ahead — you'll leave more money when you die & you'll leave it a lot sooner."

Years from now when historians go through the files from President Obama's teleprompter, they will only find a few stories, ones that Obama repeats constantly. One of them would be his bit about the Republicans driving the economy into a ditch then asking for the keys back after the Democrats get it back on the road. He loved this one and kept extending it, talking about how hot and tiring it was down in the ditch and how the Republicans were drinking a Slurpee while watching. After the Republicans took back the House there were calls for a "Slurpee summit".

The President unveiled a new one this week. Talking about immigration reform he took credit for doing more to enforce immigration than any previous president then complained that, in addition to a fence, the Republicans want a moat with an alligator.

As President Bush discovered, there is strong opposition to a new round of amnesty for illegal immigrants. This was tried under President Reagan when the country had 3 million illegals. The deal was supposed to be that we would step up enforcement to prevent a new influx of illegal immigrants while allowing the ones already here to become legal. The promised enforcement never happened and the number of illegals grew to 11 million. Opponents of a new amnesty feel that it encourages people to sneak into the country in the hope of further amnesty programs. At the least, they want to slow the flood of illegal immigrants currently entering the country (the recession slowed this but this trend will reverse when the economy picks up).

So, after telling us how bad the Republicans are on immigration, where does the President stand? We don't know. He has avoided taking any strong stands on the issue. He even abandoned the rather mild Dream Act at a time when he still had Democratic majorities in both houses.

Obama's dilemma is that amnesty is a divisive issue. At the extremes, one side wants to deport all of the illegal immigrants immediately. The other side wants to give them de facto citizenship as soon as they arrive. These extremes do not match party lines, either.

President Bush found out how volatile the issue is. He released a moderate proposal that included a guest worker program. No one liked it. Obama will have the same problem. Any moderate proposals will be rejected by both extremes and neither extreme is workable. That is why Obama has avoided specifics. Currently he is hinting to the Hispanic community that he is pro-amnesty but any actual proposals will probably cost him more votes than he will gain.

Obama got 2/3s of the Hispanic vote in 2008 but a lot of that was based on his skin color and time spent living abroad. For reelection he will be judged on his non-existent record.

His only option it to generate a lot of smoke and hope that no one notices that there is no fire. He held a summit with some Hollywood Hispanics (which Eva Longoria later denied was about immigration) and he criticized the Republicans but he still has not told us where he stands.

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