Sadly, the American public does not have a thunderbolt to throw at Congress to get its members to quit acting like petulant children and focus on doing the work of the nation.
In their latest tantrum, House Republicans passed a measure to sue President Barack Obama for not enforcing law. His supposed laxity on immigration measures tops the list of grievances, but he’s also not prosecuting medical marijuana suppliers to the GOP’s satisfaction. His attorney general is pressing for minimum sentencing for low-level and nonviolent drug offenders, and of course there are the usual complaints about health care reform and education policy. Any and every issue that pushes a button in the party’s base has been thrown into this bill designed to pester the president, nothing else.
House Republicans call it the “Enforce Act.” It passed 233 to 181. They’re calling the president out for using executive orders. But many of these same Republicans put the pen into his hand by refusing to negotiate reforms to current law.
The act would give Congress the ability to sue the president when he displeases them. And what displeases them is a long and growing list.
Immigration is a great example. Republicans cite Obama’s policy that has given some protection against deportation to children brought illegally to the U.S. by their immigrant parents. These are the students known as “DREAMers.” Many of them grew up not realizing they weren’t legally in the country. Most often, they find out as teenagers when they try to register for a driver’s license or wish to get a federally funded loan for college. Being undocumented, they can’t do either.
Obama instituted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals when comprehensive immigration reform stalled. Under certain conditions, the policy gives such children the ability to stay in the country and continue their studies. It’s not amnesty. It’s not citizenship.
In January, House Republicans applauded the idea and even included a path to citizenship when outlining their plans for new immigration law. Here is their word-for-word statement on the very same children:
One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.
So, were they lying then or are they lying now?
Listening to Republicans, you’d never know that Obama has ramped up deportations to absurd levels. No U.S. president has deported so many people.
Obama will soon hit the 2 million deportee mark, probably in April. I wonder who the unlucky immigrant will be. Someone who has lived peacefully in this country for decades? Maybe nabbed by immigration after a police officer stops him for rolling through a stop sign? Will he have U.S.-born children to support, children who will be left to flounder because their deported father was the primary breadwinner?
That’s not an unlikely scenario.
A new study has shown that, despite claims that the feds focus on deporting violent criminals, gang members and other individuals who are clearly not a benefit to the country, under Obama they are scooping up all sorts of immigrants. The study by Immigration Policy Center found that most of the immigrants deported in 2013 had “relatively minor, nonviolent crimes or had no criminal history at all.” And many could have been candidates for legal status under immigration reform proposals that have been stalled in Congress.
Obama’s dragnet approach was an attempt to curry favor with conservatives. He believed this gesture would bring them to the table to resolve immigration reform. Didn’t work.
Hard-working immigrants, and their U.S.-born children, are the collateral damage.
So what does the Enforce Act add to this travesty of government? Nothing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly pronounced it “dead on arrival” in that chamber.
So there you have it. Wasted time. Wasted energy. Nothing done and nothing likely to get done.
(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr