In re the President’s remarks last night – Part 1

The President’s remarks are in boldface:

My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

I don’t recall participating in the conversation, so it should be “talk to,” not “talk with.”

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities — people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

And so begins, with minimal delay, the conflation of legal and illegal immigration–of legal immigrants with illegal aliens.

“Youthful”? Is there a correlation between the age of a population and its relative level of prosperity? The median age in the U.S. is just a tick under 37; Mexico, just under 27; Guatemala, just under 20.

The phrase “not trapped by our past” is interesting, coming from someone who makes a habit of apologizing to the world for it.

But today, our immigration system is broken — and everybody knows it.

Frankly, Mr. President, if you told me the sky is blue, I’d look out the window to check the veracity of the assertion.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

The first sentence is true. And I suspect that those who play by the rules were not much heartened by your intent to unilaterally abrogate those rules.

The second sentence is also true, although the fact that those workers are “exploited” (one could fairly argue that said “exploitation” is far less than it would be in their home countries, or else why bother to come here) is probably of less concern to businesses who obey the law than the fact that they are at a competitive disadvantage relative to businesses who do not. Also, the correct legal term is “illegal alien,” not the politically-correct euphemism, “undocumented immigrants.”

As to the third sentence, but that “all of us” shared that offense; too many of us seem offended by the fact that there are any impediments to illegal immigration at all.

The “living in the shadows” trope is one of the most shopworn and tired of Leftist clichés. Perhaps illegal aliens live “in the shadows” in the affluent neighborhoods that the President inhabits during his frequent fundraising trips, but not in my neighborhood. As for an allegedly desperate wish to “embrace those responsibilities,” that assertion begs the question of why their first act on American soil was to break the rules by entering the country illegally.

It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

Thank a Democrat, and their like-minded friends on the other side of the aisle.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Your success in strengthening border security speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

See also, “The Deportation Lie,” by Andrew Stiles (National Review Online, 4/19/13): “In her testimony on April 8, [the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, Jessica] Vaughan noted that, contrary to the administration’s claims, the number of illegal-immigrant removals has dropped 40 percent since June 2011, when ICE director John Morton issued the first of several directives outlining significant changes to the agency’s enforcement policies.”

As for the comparison to the 1970s, the U.S. labor participation rate is also at a level last seen in that era. When the job market contracts, so does illegal immigration–a fact the President apparently thought better of mentioning.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

The vote was 52-0 Democrats, 2-0 Independents, 14-32 Republicans. Sounds a bit different when you break it down like that, doesn’t it?

The bill was characterized as follows by Senators Cruz, Sessions, Lee and Grassley: “The last thing this country needs right now is another 1,000-plus page bill that, like Obamacare, was negotiated behind closed doors with special interests.”

“Independent experts” similar to Jonathan Gruber? Oh, sorry. My mind wandered.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

How many bills did Harry Reid table again? I lost track.

We’re supposed to believe that Speaker Boehner had the votes, but didn’t allow a vote on “comprehensive immigration reform”? I frankly haven’t the foggiest idea what the President is going on about (the cloture vote?), and I suspect that neither do most Americans, but it makes for amusing reading.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President –- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me -– that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Apparently a new clause has been found in the Constitution: The Johnny Did It First! clause. The inherent argument seems to be that if prior Presidents have engaged in unconstitutional actions, future Presidents are free to do the same, without fear of opposition. And so, Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution should actually read as follows: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives–unless prior Presidents have issued similar edicts in contravention with this Section and gotten away with it, in which case, all bets are off.”

Well, actually, no, Mr. President, they did not take “the same kinds of actions” that you are about to. From the most important piece linked here, “No, Reagan Did Not Offer An Amnesty By Lawless Executive Order,” by Gabriel Malor at The Federalist: “Thus, Obama is clearly contravening both ordinary practice and the wishes of Congress—as expressed in statute—by declaring an amnesty himself. This is nothing like Reagan’s or Bush’s attempts to implement Congress’ amnesty. The progressive media’s claims otherwise are blatant lies, relying on their readers’ ignorance of events in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Such attempts should be rejected wherever they are found.” I strongly urge you to read the entire piece.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

So much for talking with.

First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.

That’s great, but given that your recent rhetoric, signaling to potential illegal aliens that this would be a great time to try to enter the country illegally, renders those “additional resources” largely moot.

Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.

As if legal immigration has anything to do with illegal aliens.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

Again, they are, per the law, illegal aliens, not “undocumented immigrants.”

As for dealing “responsibly” with them, arrogating to yourself powers that the Constitution does not can hardly be characterized as “responsible.”

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable -– especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

Yes, we are a “nation of laws.” And the law of the land, the overarching framework for lesser laws, is the Constitution of the United States. Which you have taken upon yourself to abrogate, in contravention to your Oath of Office.

Your deportation figures are meaningless. See the aforementioned “The Deportation Lie,” by Andrew Stiles (National Review Online, 4/19/13). See also, here, here, here, etc.

Oddly enough, nobody is arguing that law enforcement should not prioritize the removal of criminal aliens, and more so violent ones, over mere illegal entrants to the U.S. However, the inference that prosecutorial discretion and law enforcement prioritization justifies the wholesale abrogation of the Constitution is a breathtaking falsity. (See also, Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review Online, “No, ‘Prosecutorial Discretion’ Does Not Justify Obama’s Lawless Amnesty.”)

But that’s all pretty much setting the table for this:

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally. And let’s be honest -– tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours. As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”

And let’s be honest, anyone who suggests that any serious conservative opponent of amnesty, or semi-amnesty, is advocating the wholesale “tracking down, rounding up, and deporting [of] millions of people” is–not to put too fine a point on it–totally full of shit, and engaging in straw man demagoguery of the worst, most insulting, most risible kind.

Wait, are they living in the shadows, or not? Or does that depend upon the particular trope you are deploying at a given moment?

Now here’s the thing: We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes — you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Have I got a deal for you, my friend! Come on down!

Now here’s the thing: We expect the President of the United States to uphold his Oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” That’s what the deal is.

It will be interesting to see how many people “come out of the shadows” for a temporary work permit (that some argue makes them less, not more, likely to find work) and to have the opportunity to pay their “fair share of taxes”–although, given the nature of the Federal tax system, there might well be monetary incentives (Earned Income Credit and the the like) to do just that. In which case they would end up being net takers vis. taxation.


Part 2 is here.


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