Obama announced some changes to immigration policy. Like everything Obama, it’s a mess of compromise, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. It’s also all dressed up in religious language, which drives me a little nuts: I don’t consider Scripture a source of racial and ethnic tolerance. But he also shows a little spine.
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. 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.
You can bet the right wing will use that to argue that he’s acting like an emperor…but at least he’s committing an act of generosity and tolerance, rather than starting wars.
After a bunch of pandering to the right (we’ve increased border patrols, etc.), we get to the meat of his plan.
Now here is the thing. We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal 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.
Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.
See? Compromise. Why 5 years? What does “temporarily” mean? But OK, it’s a step forward. And he does get a bit inspiring.
My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forbearers were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.
Of course, one other way to interpret that is that he has just declared Republicans to be un-American, since they don’t seem to hold that ideal. Their freak-out is going to be fun to watch.