Friday, June 22, 2012

It IS Politics and It's Right...

On last week, when President Barack Obama announced his change in immigration policy which took the frame of the long sought DREAM Act (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), the lives of nearly 800,000 undocumented youth and children immediately got easier.

The decision by the Obama administration, to no longer enforce deportation of young people who were brought to this country by their parents. If they have not participated in criminal activity; if they are enrolled in public, private school or a college or university; if they are serving in the armed forces they can stay in this country and can get work permits. It is not amnesty. It is not a pathway to citizenship. It's not an executive order. It is a change in enforcement policy that allows young immigrants who are undocumented, to stay in this country and provide them with the opportunity to work.

It is a change in policy that has presidential opponents in knots. The line most often trotted out is that the President has circumvented Congress and has somehow abused Presidential authority with an executive order.

Again, it's not an executive order. It is the use of enforcement discretion. Much in the same way a policeman has the discretion whether or not to give you a speeding ticket, or a judge can give you deferred adjudication or a prosecutor can decide whether or not to prosecute a crime.

But the complaint that the President didn't go through Congress to enact more meaningful legislation is not just a false argument - it's false period.

In 2010 a Democratic controlled House actually DID pass the DREAM Act. And so did a Democratic controlled Senate. However, in the Senate, you no longer win votes on a majority. Although the DREAM Act passed 55-41 in the Senate, there were not enough votes to avoid a filibuster and so the DREAM Act went down in defeat.

Now for opposition to feign concern that they were not given an opportunity to vote on this measure and accuse the President of 'playing politics' is pretty disingenuous.

The office of the President is a political office. This is an election year. The President is clearly using the advantages of incumbency to do what he can to keep a political promise. And in the process, there are young people whom we are either educating or have educated, who will have a chance to further their education, or serve our country or work in our country, without looking over their shoulders. Until Congress gets some backbone, passes the DREAM Act and does the hard work of enacting meaningful immigration reform, it means that we get a better return on our public investments in these young people and the U.S. doesn't break up families.

There are times when policies which are clearly political, are unalterably moral and right. I tend to admire politicians who aren't immobilized when that which is political is also right.

Opponents of the President's policy are perfectly free to go into session and actually pass the DREAM Act. In doing so, they take the issue off the table for the Presidential election. Then they can have the distinction of doing that which is politically expedient and morally right.

In the meantime congratulations to all of my friends who have been working on the DREAM Act for years! It's not everything, but it is you're closer than you were before. Keep the faith!

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