Congress ignores its duty

Published 10:24 am Friday, November 21, 2014

This week President Obama acted with executive authority to direct Immigration officials to focus their limited resources on illegals who have committed criminal acts and those who have more recently illegally crossed our borders.

Our Republican friends have reacted by declaring verbal war on the president with terms like a constitutional crisis, an immigration offense and the act of an emperor.

But the plain truth is this is simply, “A walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more” (Shakespeare) in defining the angst of Republicans.

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First, the actions of the president will amount to almost nothing, for those he has directed immigration not to focus upon deportation are exactly the same people immigration has not focused upon deporting. Our Immigration service has been quite busy already, deporting 369,000 individuals in 2013.

That number represents a 10 percent decrease in deportations over the previous year, the first drop in deportations since 2008, Obama’s first year in office.

And the efforts of immigration have already been focused upon criminal illegals, with fully 60 percent of deportations falling into that category. According to U.S. Immigration officials in January of 2014 “federal resources were now no longer going to be devoted to deporting immigrants who were ‘low priority cases,” such as those who do not have criminal records and who pose no threat to national security.” (U.S. immigration website).

So it is hardly a stunning development that the president now announces that several million non-targeted illegals with family connections in the US will not be hunted down to be jailed and expelled for being.

But it is important to those families, many with 30 years of living in America, to know that they need not live any longer in fear of going to a doctor, or being stopped for speeding or being questioned for the color of their skin.

Broad majorities of Americans want these people to have a pathway to legality if not to citizenship, a conviction that was embraced within a bipartisan Senate bill last year that the House refused to even consider.

Now we have the new Congress, more Republican than before the election, arguing that the president should just give them a chance to craft immigration reform and wait for them to do so. That might seem reasonable were it not for the fact that the Republican House, who failed to act in 2014 on immigration, is still the same Republican House that now claims it just needs time to act.

There is little evidence that the House, with its Tea Party contingent standing in opposition to a path to legality for illegals, has any intention of ever acting beyond border tightening steps.

Yet Congress is free to act, free to create new Immigration law any time it should choose to do so. And, by doing so Congress would be doing its job. Perhaps instead of bemoaning the acts of the president Republicans in control of Congress should “just do it” and try effective governing for a change.

Should Congress early next year pass Immigration reform that reform would negate the presidential executive orders of this week, orders which effectively expire at the end of the Obama presidency if not supported by the next president.

What we have is a Congress that has flatly failed in its responsibility to pass immigration reform, attacking a president for taking actions to fill the void their inactions have created.

Will Republicans shut down the government over the very minimalist presidential executive enforcement direction? Will they refuse to finish the budget in their anger at the president? Will they halt executive and judicial appointments to protest the president’s decision to tell several million folks we do not plan on uprooting their lives?

Maybe. But that would not be much of a change in expectations of this Congress, one most likely “to be heard no more” in legislating.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.