If President Obama were Dr. Frankenstein, the far left’s immigration-reform movement is starting to resemble a monster he can't control.
It haunted Obama last week during an interview with Jorge Ramos, the Fusion/Univision pundit who’s an immigration-reform crusader.
Rather than praise Obama for unilaterally sparing as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportations, Ramos’ reaction was more like: Why so little so late? Here’s an edited transcript of the exchange:
Ramos: “You always had the legal authority to stop deportations, then why did you deport 2 million people? ... For six years you did it.”
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Obama: “No. Listen, Jorge…”
Ramos: “You destroyed many families. They called you deporter-in-chief.”
Obama: “You called me deporter-in-chief.”
Ramos: “It was Janet Murguia from La Raza. … Well, you could have stopped deportations.”
Obama: “No, no, no. … That is not true. Listen, here’s the fact of the matter.”
Ramos: “You could have stopped them…”
Obama: “…those, like you sometimes, Jorge, who suggest that there are simple quick answers to these problems, I think… When you present it in that way, it does a disservice, because it makes the assumption that the political process is one that can easily be moved around, depending on the will of one person, and that’s not how things work.”
The fact that Obama is on defense from the far left over immigration reform is almost as remarkable as the president’s refusal to see the hand he had in the blowback.
Like any politician, Obama often makes the political process seem to have “simple quick answers to these problems.”
It was Obama in 2008 who promised comprehensive immigration reform. He then did nothing about it while Democrats controlled the House and had a supermajority in the U.S. Senate.
Then, in time for his 2012 reelection, Obama issued an executive action that gave deportation relief to many young people who were brought and/or remain in this country illegally.
But, despite what Obama told Ramos, the president repeatedly said or suggested he didn’t have executive authority to do much more. Then he reversed himself with his latest decision.
In the end, the “will of one person” did lead to a sweeping change.
Meantime, Republicans have stalled immigration reform, especially in the House. And they’ve lost Hispanic support — as well as favorable coverage from pundits like Ramos.
By and large, Obama’s action has been popular with Hispanic voters, with 89 percent favoring the policy, according to a survey from the Latino Decisions polling firm. That’s important for Democrats who want to keep this fast-growing segment of the electorate in their camp.
But factoring in all Americans, Obama’s action might be riskier; 50 percent oppose it and 46 percent support it, according to a Pew Research Center poll last week. Independents opposed the decision 52-44.
The Pew poll, though, showed 70 percent support overall for legalizing the status of the undocumented. Even Republicans support it (by 53 percent), though the U.S. House just won’t allow the issue to be heard.
Reporters and pundits have rightly focused on the struggle within the GOP and with Hispanic voters over immigration. But there’s a chance media coverage could start shifting to the struggles Democrats might have with the far left over the issue. Not all immigration reform advocates are far left; the movement to fix immigration laws spans the political spectrum.
Like any interest group, many immigration-reform advocates want everything. And they’ll heckle and bash people who give them half a loaf instead. They want all the bread, if not the whole bakery. Just ask Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Hillary Clinton … or Obama.
Right after Obama announced his decision, he was interrupted and heckled at a speech in Chicago. One protester held up a sign that said, "Stop Deportations Now."
“It doesn't make sense to yell at me right now," Obama said. "What you're not paying attention to is: I just took an action to change the law."
That last line was promptly used in a lawsuit filed this month by 18 Republican-leaning states (including Florida) that say Obama unconstitutionally changed the law. A White House spokesman tried to walk back what the president said.
Obama could wring a win out of this by using the hecklers to show that he's a centrist. Still, the growing in-your-face advocacy raises questions about what's at stake for Democrats in the debate.
Should the United States really stop all deportations now? How much tolerance do voters (which is to say “U.S. citizens”) have for a movement that criticizes the president for following the law?
Yes, families have been split up by deportations. But how fair is it to say Obama “destroyed many families” by allowing deportations to continue? Don’t those illegally in the country bear the most blame for breaking immigration law, leading to their own deportations?
There’s an old saying that it’s sometimes better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
But some of these activists seem to be sending a signal that illegal immigration is a right. They’ll ask for no permission. And they might even demand that those who follow the law ask for forgiveness.
That’s a style of inflexible politics that the far right just loves, especially as Obama comes to terms with the fact that offering too much hope and too little change can have monstrous consequences.