It's impossible to please everyone all of time. For Obama, sometimes it's even harder to please his base, which should be easy since typically they share the same agenda. But when it comes to immigration reform, there's a lot of space between them, and his base is not happy.
They have been clamoring for Obama to do something, halt deportations if nothing else, since the odds of getting a bill passed in Congress are nil. But the anger goes both directions with Obama being mad at them for pressuring him to act unilaterally.
Valerie Jarrett and Cecilia Munoz, head of the Domestic Policy Council, held a powwow with more than a dozen pro-immigration groups on Monday, June 30. All the usual suspects were there, well except La Raza, and they were expecting this to be another, "be patient for Executive Orders" session while the president gave the House time to act on comprehensive immigration reform. Little did they know (as it wasn't on the official White House schedule), that Obama himself would join the meeting and he was loaded for bear.
If Major Garrett's sources are correct, his National Journal piece is quit revealing about Obama's new strategy to bypass Congress:
Obama told the groups what they had been dying to hear—that he was going to condemn House Republicans for inaction and set the most expansive legal course permissible to beef up border security, slow deportations of noncriminal aliens, and provide legal status to millions of undocumented workers—all by himself.
"He went from hanging back to calling the question and retaking the initiative," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice. "I kept thinking, 'Where has this guy been?' He's going on offense. He was a different guy. He was unplugged. After months of him and his team being angry with advocates for putting pressure on him to take executive action, it became clear he was no longer going to use the prospect of legislation to deflect attention and pressure from him."
Like most Obama's policies, they tend to be all or nothing and he reacts to situations that arise like Whac-A-Mole. His approach to the crisis on the border is no different and his strategy has all the traits of the childhood game.
His plan is to surge resources to the border, using existing ICE agents who usually guard the interior. Politico confirms this:
First, he will direct Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to shift immigration enforcement resources from the interior section of the United States to the border.
This strategy protects the flank of existing illegal immigrants already here, thus defending the cause du jour of making them legal citizens and of course potential voters.
He's also considering an EO similar to DACA for 5-6 million illegal immigrant adults that would keep them from being deported and give them temporary legal status, like he did for DREAMERs. Would it be called DAAA? Deferred Action is Actually Amnesty?
The pro-immigration groups at the meeting were elated to hear the president was finally willing to take action without Congress. But the party balloons of the White House guests quickly lost their helium as Obama popped them right there in front of them when he turned to the unaccompanied alien children crisis on the border.
He made it clear that he would ask Congress for resources to speed up the court process in order to deport the children back to their home countries. From the same National Journal piece:
According to those present, Obama was focused entirely on future executive actions when Gustavo Torres of CASA de Maryland asked about the unaccompanied minors and Obama's desire to expand his power to deport the children, returning them, in most cases, to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Obama said his goal was to provide humanitarian assistance, speed up the processing of the cases under the law, and ask Congress for up to $3 billion for housing and temporary courts to process and deport those without legal standing.
I can almost hear the gasps in the room as their elation deflated. Many said deporting and sending them back home would be inhumane and a tragedy, not to mention they would keep trying to enter our country.
Hopefully the president will maintain his position and I will applaud him if he does*:
Obama, according to those present, would have none of it. Kids all over the world have it tough, he said. Even children in America who live in dangerous neighborhoods would like to live somewhere else, but he can't solve everyone's problems. He told the groups he had to enforce the law—even if that meant deporting hard cases with minors involved. Sometimes, there is an inherent injustice in where you are born, and no president can solve that, Obama said. But presidents must send the message that you can't just show up on the border, plead for asylum or refugee status, and hope to get it.
"Then anyone can come in, and it means that, effectively, we don't have any kind of system," Obama said. "We are a nation with borders that must be enforced."
It will be interesting to watch this unfold and see if the House authorizes the money he requested to speed up child deportations and secure the border, knowing that he will halt deportations from the interior of the country. If they do, they had better ask for monthly expenditure reports to pro-actively watch how it's spent.
Obama is throwing a hail Mary by going around Congress again using his pen and phone. For now, it appears that he's willing to go it alone on offense at the border to stem the flow of illegal children, perhaps at their expense, in order to preserve the gains of the 11M+ illegals already here. It's another either/or policy.
However his game plan unfolds and the ensuing repercussions, we know it was 100% built by Obama and the House will be right when they say, "Mr. President, you did build that."
*Of course I'm not holding my breath after watching Sec. Jeh Johnson on Meet the Press yesterday dodge the very question of what will happen to the children and if they'll be allowed to stay in the country.