What If Obama Really Uses his Executive “Pen” to Fix Immigration?

By Alex Gonzalez

The hope among Republican pundits and consultants is that Obama will not use his Executive Prerogative to sign an administrative law “to fix” Immigration by granting undocumented workers a protective (non-deportable) law because he does not want to agitate the GOP base more since, according to latest poll, voter “enthusiasm” in the conservative base is high; and these voters will be voting more on opposition to Obamacare. In addition, some pundits argue that President Obama does not want to be give more credence to the “Imperial” President image, which has also energized the tea party base in the mid-term in some key Senate races that may lead to Republicans taking 5-6 seats giving Republicans a 51 or 52 majority in the Senate for the first time since 2006.

But what if Obama, making a political calculation, acknowledging losing the Senate and assessing that he is not going to please Republicans on any issue, decides to act on Immigration and signs an Executive order halting deportations of all those undocumented workers who would have qualified for legalization under the Senate Bill S.744.

Obama knows that Republicans have already decided to run the mid-term election on repealing Obamacare to keep the majority on the House and possibly take the Senate due to high “enthusiasm” among conservative voters against Obamacare. Hence, at this point, nothing that Obama does will sway the opinion of the conservative base that does want to compromise on Immigration. 

On the other hand, Obama could do something to energize Latino voters, after acknowledging losing the Senate, in preparation for the 2016 where Latinos can more easily sway the election. Thus, in issuing an Executive order on Immigration Obama will be giving Latinos voters a reason to come out and vote; historically Latino voters have a 35 percent decrease during mid-term election from presidential elections; Obama may sign this Executive to energize the Latino base that wants this issue fixed, and to set political mood for 2016.

This Executive order halting deportations of those who qualify for the Senate Immigration Bill passed in 2013 will officially turn those “living in the shadows” into de-facto semi- “legal”  since the government cannot deport those eligible for the Senate bill – only those criminal record can be deported.  And this really worries Hispanic Republicans like Sen. Rubio who believes that Republicans need to pass Immigration Reform to be viable for 2016, and to prevent Obama from issuing an Executive order that could energize Latino voters,   

Still, some Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who had a key role in helping write a Senate-passed immigration reform bill, have said they are concerned Obama will soon tire of congressional inaction and use executive action. Diaz-Balart hopes to have his measure ready for a debate by June or July.

And there strong reasons why if Obama acts by issuing an Executive order: this issue will further energize Latino voters  this year and in 2016.    

According to pew Hispanics about 3 to 4 million of the 11 millions of undocumented residents live in what is called “mix marriages” in which one espouse is a citizen or legal permanent resident; and have citizen children. Too, more than 60 percent of these workers have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 year and they already have businesses and properties. If Obama were to give these “illegal” espouses some type of protection that would shield them from deportation, and if after taking the Senate Republicans start running on taking this protection away, there will be a strong incentive for those married to these immigrants to act, vote. Immigration suddenly will becomes an issue where Republicans  “want to take” your protection away. And traditionally voters are more enthusiastic, and angry, about voting when the government wants to take something away from them.

And this the principle reason why Republican did not want to have high enrollment in Obamacare, and why both parties refuse to touch Medicare and Social  Security, they fear the “senior vote.”  

Furthermore, this issue is also important to Evangelicals and business Republicans, including the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce; if Republicans want to take this Executive protection away, Republicans may face the wrath from Evangelicals and businesses if they push a bill that will put people “under the shadows,” again.

And even if Obama acknowledges that this Executive order may jeopardize the Senate and push it to a 51 Republican Majority, he may calculate that, if in fact, Republicans win–and Republicans in the House keep the majority–Republicans will be faced with the choice of taking this protective law from millions of Latinos, and thereby, angering Latino voters, voting bloc that is needed to win the White House.

Moreover, even if Republicans in the House and Senate—assuming they take the majority—pass a bill making Obama executive orders “illegal,” Obama will veto it, and Republicans will not have a 2/3 majority in both chambers of Congress to override a presidential veto. Likewise, if Republican do dear to even debate this law in floor, this will be bad politics for presidential elections, because even Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who could become the Majority  whip, agreed that Republicans cannot win in 2016 by antagonizing Hispanic voters with this issue; and this will create an even bigger division within the Republican Party, Republican  division in public has been the chief reason why Speaker John Boehner has avoided a vote on Immigration in the House.

Furthermore, after primaries this year, democrats in House can end up even if Obama signs  an Executive order. For example, of the 435 congressional races, only 20 are competitive races due to gerrymandering, and thus, nothing will really change in the House since Republicans are expected to keep the majority. Also, unlike the Senate races where the Latino vote will not be significant since most races are in state with small Hispanic populations, 10 of the 20 competitive House races do have Hispanic population where the Latino vote can be energize with an Executive order from Obama. Realistically, democrats will not take the House even if they win these 10 House districts, but this move will set up the mood for the 2016 where Hillary Clinton is expected to draw millions of more women (Latinas and pro-choice suburban female voters), even in traditional republican states like Texas where growth of Latino vote continues to increase while and senior “Anglo” base continues to shrink. 

Calculating this possible future  political environment and more gridlock in Congress next Session, Obama knows that this may the last session of Congress he can have leverage in the Senate when an Immigration bill is drafted, and maybe his last chance to have an Immigration Bill. If Republicans take the majority in the Senate, Sen. Cuck Grassley from Iowa will become the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Committee in charge of Immigration laws. Sen. Grassley was one of the chief opponents of the S.744 Senate bill during the Senate Judiciary Committee debate.  

As a result, Obama anticipating a lost in the Senate, and a Republican House majority that will continue to avoid Immigration and focus only on “undoing” Obamacare, Obama may be willing to issue an Executive order like he did for the DREAM Act kids if Republicans in the House fail to pass an Immigration bill; and this will set the political mood for the 2016 presidential election where Republican will have to be on the defensive. And there will be very little Republicans can do about it other the calling Obama “Imperial” president.  

Moreover, and Executive order will force Republicans with two choices in the next session of Congress: take any protective law away from immigrants through a futile Congressional bill and have a veto from the President. Or passed a Bill that the president will sign to grant those already protected under Obama’s Executive order a real path to legalization, if they want to have a real change to win the White House by not antagonizing Latino voters with this issue.   

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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