In staccato movements, our post-health-care President seemed to have found his rhythm: 15 recess appointments, a yet-to-be ratified arms-reduction treaty with Russia, and a world-leaders’ conference on nuclear nonproliferation, the first such gathering since President Franklin Roosevelt convened the precursor meeting that would lead to the formation of the United Nations. Why then is he (and his usually powerful Michelle) showing timidity around comprehensive immigration reform (CIR)? No doubt the recent flip-flop of Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, hasn’t helped. Over the weekend Reid promised to make time on the calendar for CIR, only to backtrack a few days later.
While the politicians in Washington dither, those in Arizona pass a bill headed for the governor’s desk that would criminalize the undocumented population of the Grand Canyon State. While an inaudacious president waits for Congress to make the first move, his Secretary of Homeland Security maintains a “full steam ahead” policy of immigration enforcement.
The President’s choices are clear. He can risk the ire of the CIR proponents in his base and merely blame Congress. He can declare a moratorium on enforcement. He can stay silent while the states enact Draconian criminal legislation attacking the undocumented. He can use his bully pulpit to move CIR legislation forward. Or, he can use his substantial executive authority over immigration policy and make interim changes that alter the facts on the ground. He can establish by rulemaking a registration system that allows the undocumented to come forward, be screened for criminal history and security threats, and grant them temporary work permission until Congress gets to the heavy lifting on CIR.