Obama’s Immigration Machinations

Obama’s Immigration Machinations

Tibor R. Machan

Not for a moment do I buy that President Obama has suddenly grasped the plight of illegal immigrant children. For one, he is on record declaring that the law ties his hands about the matter–that he cannot act unilaterally, or so he said in a widely available video from just a year or so ago. Somehow this is supposed to have changed and now his sense of justice, fairness and benevolence has kicked in and led him to reverse himself. (I thought it was Mitt Romney who wobbled on public policy matters!) No.

For Mr. Obama what would be the best clue to his approach to these matter is his repeated profession of pragmatism. Now in this case pragmatism would direct him to do whatever will improve his chance for reelection. If the pragmatism had to do with his having found a suitable means to help all those young illegal immigrants to finally get a solid foothold in the country they have come to consider their own, this executive decision could have been made many moons ago. Indeed, those young men and women could have been moved out of limbo a long time ago by Mr. Obama. There was no administrative reason for him to wait until now if there is none now.

The only sensible explanation is that the upcoming presidential contest is getting tighter than Obama & Co., had anticipated, so now it’s a good tactic for him to play to a pretty strong special interest group in the United States, namely, Hispanics and others whose goals involve becoming American citizens any way they can and all those who sympathize with them. That is a large chunk of voters! (I am one of those immigrants who had to jump through all the legal loops in order to become naturalized.)

Of course, we all feel for those who are in the state of limbo so many are whom Mr. Obama is favoring with his decision. And I don’t doubt that Mr. Obama, too, has feelings for them. People are often impelled to do what they choose to do by several motives. One or another of these may not suffice to lead them to reach a decision and to issue in decisive action. But I bet that combining some genuine feeling for the young illegals with the opportunistic interest in getting reelected pushed the president over to the side of ignoring his commitment to what he earlier thought the law required of him. He decided to ignore the nicety of involving Congress. He decided to overcome his aversion to executive decisions which he has expressed before when other presidents invoked them. And he went for what would serve his political interest or, maybe more appropriately put, his most important objective in his adult life, namely, to obtain and keep power over the American people. If at this point that required for him to make this inconsistent executive decision, so be it. Who is going to punish him for it?

Most ordinary voters do not focus much on Obama’s avowed pragmatism. They do not realize that this philosophy can be used to justify the most dubious methods for achieving one’s goals, provided those methods are successful. Nor do they know that the goals a pragmatist pursues need no justification at all. One can simply pick one’s goals based on anything at all, provided the goals are practically attainable. No one can know for sure if some method to reach desired ends will be successful since the future is not something we can know. But if it has a good chance of success, why not go for it? The saying that the end justifies the means applies here precisely.

So then what about the merits of the decision to grant legal status to the young people who were brought here? It’s not a bad idea except that it may make it tougher for some who are trying to gain legal status the required way. There are, after all, quotas in play in this–some limit to the number of those legalized will be in place. So merely being a good idea doesn’t qualify it as good policy. The rule of law has to play a role too, exactly what the president appears to have appreciated earlier but then tossed overboard in this current move.

So, bottom line: Mr. Obama is now grasping at straws to give his reelection a good chance. One may conclude, then, that seeking and keeping political power tops his list of priorities. Just what one may expect from someone without principles.

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