What Obama’s “Go at it Alone” On Immigration Really Means?

By Alex Gonzalez

President Obama announced on Monday that he will “act alone” on immigration, after the House of Representatives “GOP failed to pass a ‘darn’ immigration bill.” While this is certainly going to anger many conservatives who preferred nothing to be done on immigration, and especially those 40 Republicans in the House who worked hard to see the bill “dead” on arrival, what this “executive” order really means goes beyond the “Obama is overreaching his authority” discourse. And If Republicans are not careful on how they manage this new executive order, they will be exacerbating the already fragile bond with Hispanics due to the politics of immigration. They might as well kiss that Latino friendly outreach good-bye.

First, we must acknowledge this is political game that we have been talking about for the last year. Republicans in the House opted out of the immigration bill, because they wanted to keep a “high enthusiasm” among the “white” tea party base by focusing on Obamacare and Benghazi. There is no doubt, the Supreme Court Ruling on Hobby Lobby will keep this anti-Obama enthusiasm high among the base. In addition, 80% of Republicans in the House come from “safe” districts where voters don’t want to hear about immigration and where Latinos have a small voting bloc. It was in the best interests of Republicans in the House from these districts to avoid taking a vote an immigration, and instead, keep the Obamacare and “ I oppose amnesty” discourse.

So Republicans may get what they wanted: Not vote an immigration, and a high enthusiasm against Obamacare among “white senior voters“ while not having to worry about the Latino vote for the mid-term election.

However, Obama’s “acting alone” on immigration is going to be HUGE, a real political firestorm, for businesses, Evangelicals, conservative Catholics, you name it. Put it this way, after Obama grants some type of protectoral clause (non-deportable) or a parole to those 11 million family members, or maybe married to citizens (potential voters), Republicans will not be able to argue they want make abuelito, tia, or primo deportable again while asking Latino voters to vote for them for the GOP for a Presidential ticket.

If fact, Obama may give Republicans in Texas what they wanted, The Texas Solution, solution that seeks to keeps families together and create a temporary “guest worker” programs. Obama’s new executive order may just do that; according to those 15 Immigration advocates who were briefed on the “executive” move, this new “executive” plan will be built off a 2012 decision to defer the deportations of young people brought to the country illegally as children.  Obama also said on Monday:

I expect the recommendations before the end of the summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay,”

This is exactly what he did before he approved the Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in August of 2012, which many conservatives and Republicans supported at the time. Moreover, three months ago, Obama said that any deportation relief would be based on the Senate Bill S.744; thus this new executive push still means that the government cannot deport those eligible for the Senate bill – only those with violent criminal records can be deported.

So while the anti-Obamacare enthusiasm will stay “high” among the GOP base, in fact they new executive order may raise it even higher, but this will put Republicans in a terrible bind.

Obama on immigration
National Republican Congressional Committee shared this pic after Obama had his press conference on immigration on Monday.

It leaves Republicans with the same problem they faced in the presidential election two years ago—a disadvantage with the growing bloc of Hispanic voters. Many in the GOP have cautioned that the party won’t win another national election unless it finds a way to improve the party’s standing with Latinos. That isn’t possible, many caution, without passing an immigration bill.

“In the short term, Republicans are going to avoid an internal civil war over an issue over which they are bitterly divided…But in the longer term, Republicans will not have resolved an issue that is a huge problem for them in a presidential election year.”

Furthermore, this may wake up the “Sleeping Giant.” Any political scientist will tell you that voters tend to “wake up” when they are personally affected by laws; politics, then, becomes more personal, and thereby, creating an incentive to vote. And sometimes you need to shake up the status-quo to make a significant and permanent change. In a county where about 24 million of Latinos are eligible to vote but only 11.5 million voted in 2012, turnout is a dismal sign. In Texas, where 4.5 Latinos are eligible to vote, but only 2.3 are registered and only 1.8 voted in 2012, is bad statistic. So maybe Obama’s Executive Order is what is needed to wake up the Giant—-the Latino voter.

Obama’s decision is going to test how high the “enthusiasms” of the Latino vote and religious groups can get against the tea party  and anti-reform groups’ enthusiasm , who for certain will now claim that Obama has granted “amnesty to illegals.” And how Republicans react to it, will determine whether they can  win the White House with the Latino vote in the next two generations.

Sure tea partiers will keep their “enthusiasm” high, and possibly this enthusiasm will translate into high turnout in the mid-term election against Obamacare and Benghazi. But Latino voters, religious groups and the business community–and even many Republicans–who wanted this issue solve have the right to be angry that Republicans in the House let the immigrating bill die. And they too have the option of opting out from one Party if their concerns are not being addressed. So now it will be left to voter enthusiasms to see who was right: Obama or Boehner?

Alex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote!  He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters’ Degree, with emphasis in American politics,  from San Francisco State University.
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