President Obama's speech to the National Council of La Raza yesterday began, oddly enough on the deficit, but later he went on to defend his position on not instituting a formal policy of "deferred action" for undocumented immigrants who might be eligible for the DREAM Act should it pass:
THE PRESIDENT: Believe me -- believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. (Laughter.) I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. (Laughter.) But that's not how -- that's not how our system works.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Change it!
THE PRESIDENT: That’s not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written. So let’s be honest. I need a dance partner here -- and the floor is empty. (Laughter.) Five years ago, 23 Republican senators supported comprehensive immigration reform because they knew it was the right thing to do for the economy and it was the right thing to do for America. Today, they’ve walked away. Republicans helped write the DREAM Act because they knew it was the right thing to do for the country. Today, they’ve walked away. Last year, we passed the DREAM Act through the House only to see it blocked by Senate Republicans. It was heartbreaking to get so close and see politics get in the way, particularly because some of the folks who walked away had previously been sponsors of this.
Obama later said, " So, yes, feel free to keep the heat on me and keep the heat on Democrats. But here’s the only thing you should know. The Democrats and your President are with you. Don't get confused about that. Remember who it is that we need to move in order to actually change the laws." The president is saying "elect more Democrats," but owing to his odd taste for post-partisan "politeness" he doesn't just say that.
Obama's refusal to act on "administrative solutions" here won't win him any friends among Republicans, who are already referring to ICE's (stated) approach of focusing on undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to public safety as a "Stealth DREAM Act." Indeed, in response Republicans introduced a bill, the HALT Act, that would strip the executive branch of any ability to defer deportations for any reason. If the HALT Act passed, as Marshall Fitz points out, if you have a serious health problem, you're fleeing the Earthquake in Haiti, or your husband is fighting in Afghanistan you get treated the same as someone with a murder record.
Those Americans with family members or friends whose families are torn apart by deportation proceedings may be similarly skeptical of the president's promise that he is "with them." But it's not like the GOP is offering much competition for their votes.