Friday, December 5, 2014

Something For The Children

Watching the House of Representatives is like trying to keep an eye on a bunch of sugared-up eight-year-olds on the playground, except you expect more maturity from the kids battling it out on the monkey bars than you do from this bunch of spoiled brats.

By a vote of 219-197, the Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)-sponsored bill seeks to undo the president’s latest executive action by exempting “categories of persons unlawfully present in the United States from removal under the immigration laws.” The president announced before Thanksgiving that he would take executive action to extend deportation relief and temporary work authorization to the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and other undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children and who have lived here for at least five years.

According to NBC News’ Luke Russert, Reps. Gohmert and Stutzman voted against the bill “because it doesn’t go far enough.” Seven Republicans, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Mike Coffman (R-CO) Louis Gohmert (R-TX), and Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) voted no.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave his approval for the symbolic vote partly to allow Republicans to express their anger at the president for what they perceived to be an unilateral action on immigration law, Politico reported. Boehner hoped that allowing the vote would make Tea Party lawmakers more amenable to a two-part government spending bill next week that would prevent a government shutdown.

Either Mr. Boehner doesn’t have any kids or if he does he’s never learned Rule #1 of parenting: never give in to a child’s demands in hopes of insuring better behavior later on.  It never happens, and in this case, he didn’t even get the desired results: Gohmert and the rest of the Nutsery caucus will never be satisfied with symbolic gestures and empty votes unless it’s one of their own.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bad Example

If Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to be considered as a serious candidate for president, then perhaps he needs to do better research into what he’s talking about when he makes historical comparisons.

Paul made the comments on Friday, a day after Obama formally announced the executive actions, at the Kentucky Association of Counties conference in Lexington, Kentucky.

“I care that too much power gets in one place. Why? Because there are instances in our history where we allow power to gravitate toward one person and that one person then makes decisions that really are egregious,” Paul said. “Think of what happened in World War II where they made the decision. The president issued an executive order. He said to Japanese people ‘we’re going to put you in a camp. We’re going to take away all your rights and liberties and we’re going to intern you in a camp.'”

“We shouldn’t allow that much power to gravitate to one individual. We need to separate the power.”

First, as has been noted here and elsewhere, the president is using executive power on immigration in the same way almost every other president has since World War II, including the sainted Ronald Reagan.

Second, Mr. Paul’s specific comparison to the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II may be geared to rile up an emotional response — the action was racist and reactionary to the point that the U.S. government officially apologized (even though it took over fifty years to do it) — but both the Supreme Court and the United States Congress went along with it.  President Roosevelt may have acted by executive order, but he had help.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Executive Action

I missed the live broadcast of President Obama’s speech on immigration last night (video here).  But fear not; Sahil Kapur at TPM has the essentials.

He will expand an existing program to avoid targeting certain young people, and create a new program to relieve undocumented parents of Americans of deportation fears, senior administration officials told reporters in the White House ahead of the prime-time announcement.

“That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character,” Obama said. “What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.”

He also challenged the Republicans in Congress to fix immigration on their own, telling them that if they didn’t like what he was doing, the solution was simple:

“To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: pass a bill,” he said during a prime time address on Thursday night announcing his actions. “I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.”

No, he did not add “Neener, neener,” but he might as well have.  The GOP is beyond furious, which is a sign that they know they’re in trouble.  The more they carry on, the more we know the president’s actions are going to have an impact both on policy and politics.

The reactions stand to sharpen the contrast between Democrats and Republicans, which is particularly salient among Hispanics, who broadly support immigration relief. Pledging to overturn Obama’s actions could become a litmus test in the GOP primary, if Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other opponents demand as much. That could make life miserable for the eventual Republican nominee in the general election, where Hispanic voters, who helped give Obama two terms in office, are likely to again play an important role.

One of the things that pundits and the Village chin-scratchers have been saying since the mid-terms is that the Democratic Party has pretty much written off the white straight male voter and that it’s crucial for them to work to get them back.  Sure, it would be nice if the party that stood up for unions and the working class when the Republicans were all in favor of closing plants and sending jobs overseas could get the support of the folks whose economic well-being was trashed by the party they now flock to, but the Democrats chose to support civil rights and treating the least among us as well as the richest.  They’ve paid a price at the polls in Congress, but in the long term the number of people they helped and who know it is growing.  The biggest fear the Republicans have isn’t hoards of undocumented immigrants in Browsnville.  It’s the hoards of people in the voting booths in Toledo and Seattle and Omaha who remember who stood with them when Ted Cruz and Steve King wanted to ship them back in cattle cars.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Justo A Tiempo

Not one of the big four broadcast networks are carrying President Obama’s prime time immigration speech tonight.  The prime time revenue is too important to them, I guess.

But there is one network that will be all over it, and the speech is timed to reach a huge audience.

Shortly after President Obama scheduled his Thursday primetime address to announce new executive actions on immigration, his top White House communications advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, took to Twitter to boast. “Great timing,” he wrote, noting a rather glaring non-coincidence.

As it turned out, Obama had arranged to start speaking at the very moment Univision, America’s largest Spanish-language television network, planned to begin broadcasting the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards, one of the network’s biggest shows of the year, with a 2014 viewership of nearly 10 million.

Indeed, Univision promptly announced that it would delay the start of the live event to take Obama’s remarks, in translation, ensuring the President a massive platform in the most crucial political demographic, even as many of the English-language networks said they would skip the address. The chances are high that the leading lights of Latin pop music will follow up his words tonight with on-stage celebrations of the President’s actions.

The White House, not to mention its Republican rivals, long ago learned the power of a network most American cannot even understand.

My Spanish is mostly New Mexico Spanglish, but I understand it.  This is the audience the president really wants to reach, and it’s the audience that his executive orders will benefit the most from.  So let them show “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Bones,” and “The Biggest Loser.”  Nosotros nos recordaremos.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Equal Opportunity on Immigration

If the Republicans don’t like what President Obama is planning to do about immigration through executive action — going so far as to threaten impeachment or a government shutdown in response — then they’d better do a little checking of recent history.

The story begins on November 6, 1986, when Reagan signed the last comprehensive legalization bill to pass Congress. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave up to 3 million unauthorized immigrants a path to legalization if they had been “continuously” present in the U.S. since January 1, 1982. But the new law excluded their spouses and children who didn’t qualify. As the Senate Judiciary Committee stated at the time, “the families of legalized aliens…will be required to ‘wait in line’.”

Immediately, these split-eligibility families became the most polarizing national immigration issue. U.S. Catholic bishops criticized the government’s “separation of families,” especially given Reagan’s other pro-family stances. In early 1987, members of Congress introduced legislation to legalize family members, but without success.

Shortly after Congress’ failure, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) commissioner Alan Nelson announced he was “exercising the Attorney General’s discretion” to assure that children would “be covered” by legalization. The administration granted a blanket deferral of deportation (logistically similar to today’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) for children under 18 who were living in a two-parent household with both parents legalizing, or with a single parent who was legalizing.

Lawmakers and advocates, however, urged Reagan to go further. Spouses and some children who had one parent able to legalize but not the other remained unprotected. A California immigrants’ rights group called this “contrary to the American tradition of keeping families together.” And as Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) told the INS, “If you have the discretion to protect children, why not a family?”

President Bush the Elder’s administration did pretty much the same thing.

In July 1989, the Senate moved to protect a bigger group—all spouses and children of those who legalized under IRCA. The Senate passed legislation 81-17 that prohibited the administration from deporting family members of immigrants in the process of legalizing and directed officials to grant them work authorization. The House failed to act on the Senate’s bill.

George Bush Sr. then responded in February 1990 by administratively implementing the Senate bill’s provisions himself. As Bush’s INS Commissioner, Gene McNary, stated: “It is vital that we enforce the law against illegal entry.  However, we can enforce the law humanely.  To split families encourages further violations of the law as they reunite.” Under Bush’s “family fairness” policy, applicants had to meet certain criteria, and reapply to the INS every year for extensions.

The Bush administration anticipated its family fairness program could help enormous numbers of immigrants—up to 1.5 million family members, which amounted to over 40 percent of the 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. at the time.

Whereupon the Republicans immediately voted out articles of impeachment and hounded both Reagan and Bush ceaselessly to the ends of their terms, right?

[crickets]

The way the Republicans see it, the difference is that when Presidents Reagan and Bush used executive actions on immigration, they were Republicans showing compassion for the downtrodden and trying to preserve family values.  When President Obama does it, he’s a Democrat letting in Ebola-laden terrorists and drug smugglers.  Can you think of any other reason that might be coloring their judgment?

Look What You Made Me Do

The Republicans are threatening to shut down the government again if President Obama takes executive action on immigration.  And it will be all the president’s fault if they do.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly on immigration. If the president goes through with his executive action, do you think Republicans and Capitol Hill ought to use even the power of shutting down the government to stop him from doing it?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL:

Two things. I don’t think the president should shut down the government to try to break the Constitution. The reality is this. I do think the–

CHUCK TODD:

You think the president would be shutting down the government?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL:

Oh, absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

So you do want Republicans to fight him on this to the point that it could shut down the government?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL:

Absolute– I don’t think the president should shut down the government.

So if President Obama does something the GOP doesn’t like — which at this point is anything at all — they will hold the government hostage and blame it all on him.

I think I saw something like this on The Blacklist, but at this point James Spader would just get bored with all the jibber-jabber, pull out a gun, shoot the bad guy and pour himself another glass of wine.

I think it’s particularly appropriate that the person putting forth this particular line of reasoning is Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) who once admonished his fellow Republicans to stop being the stupid party.  He skipped the part about being the ironic party, it seems.

HT Steve M.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Next Big Battle

Immigration reform will be front and center.

The GOP’s victory afterglow had barely faded before the first major post-election battle between the President Barack Obama and the new Republican Congress began to take shape — on the explosive issue of immigration.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), striking an otherwise conciliatory tone, made amply clear that Republicans will fight Obama’s planned moves to ease the threat of deportation for up to millions of migrants who are low on the priority list for removal.

“It’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull to say, ‘If you guys don’t do what I want, I’m going to do it on my own,'” McConnell said Wednesday in Louisville, declaring that if Obama follows though, “I think it poisons the well” for legislative action.

The same afternoon, Obama was equally clear he won’t back down on his promise to act on immigration “before the end of the year.” He stressed that the new Republican Congress could supersede his actions by passing immigration reform, which he said he prefers, but vowed not to wait as problems linger.

“I’ve shown a lot of patience,” he said, calling it “a commitment I’ve made.”

Congressional Republicans won’t take that lying down. The issue is a powerful one for the immigration-weary GOP base, which now feels it has a mandate to fight Obama’s plans after Republicans campaigned against them and won.

So let me get this straight: the president wants to do things through executive action that were embraced by the bipartisan bill the Senate passed two years ago but sputtered out in the House because the Republicans didn’t want to hand him a pre-election victory.  So they’re threatening a confrontation with the whiff of impeachment?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Delaying Tactics

I’m not sure what difference in terms of actual policy it makes that President Obama is putting off his promised executive action on immigration and deportation, but I don’t see how it can help Democrats running for re-election in tough states like Arkansas or Colorado by putting the announcement off until after the November election.

People who are against any kind of kindness or adjustment for undocumented people and families are not going to vote for the Democratic candidate in that race regardless of what the president does, and trying to take it off the table as a political chess piece makes it a political chess piece.  I’m pretty sure the people who support immigration reform don’t like being treated as pawns in the game, either.

This also hands the Republicans a couple of more months of demagoguery about immigration: “Obama didn’t do anything about immigration, and now he’s playing politics with it!” while they know full well that the Senate passed a bipartisan and comprehensive immigration bill over a year ago and Speaker John Boehner has stuffed it up his ass in the House.  Mr. Boehner knew that passing immigration reform, even if it had the backing of the majority of Republicans, would be seen as a victory for the president, and of course he cannot allow that to happen.  So out come the usual suspect charges of playing politics.  It is axiomatic that when someone points at someone else and complains about that, they’re usually looking in a mirror.

The White House is counting on the indulgence of the Latino community to support the Democrats through this maneuver, knowing that no matter what they do — within reason — they’re not going to vote for the Republicans.  That’s a bit of a risk, but the administration had to know that they were opening themselves up to this kind of problem and thought they could get through it.  But I concur with Steve M: it would have been a lot easier to get it over with in June and have it be a non-issue in November given the short-term memory of the electorate.

If Obama had signed the order back in June, giving the press and the population a few months to deal with the reality of the plan instead of paranoid fantasies about it, including lots of video of sweet and overjoyed families, how much effect would that have had on Mark Pryor’s campaign? How much effect did the original Dreamer order in June 2012 have on that year’s elections? Other than to make Marco Rubio very uncomfortable and thirsty?

Not for nothing: this White House has a pretty rocky track record for deals brokered between an election and the start of the new Congress in January.  Brace yourself.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cruz To November

The remote possibility that Congress would pass some form of bill addressing the border crisis — even one that the president would veto — died yesterday when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lobbied Republicans to vote against the Republican leadership’s own bill.

From the Dallas Morning News via Balloon Juice:

Facing revolt from tea partiers egged on by Sen. Ted Cruz, House Republicans gave up suddenly Thursday on a bill that would have provided hundreds of millions to address the border crisis.

It was the latest in a string of embarrassments handed to Speaker John Boehner by Cruz, and the biggest since last fall, when the Texas freshman prodded House tea partiers to defy Boehner on efforts to avert a government shutdown.

The House GOP plan included $659 million, a fraction of the $3.7 billion requested by the White House. Democrats opposed it, as did some conservative Republicans.

Cruz hosted a pizza-fueled strategy session Wednesday night with some House conservatives – a reunion of the so-called Tortilla Coast Caucus, named for the Capitol Hill restaurant where Cruz and House allies huddled during the shutdown fight.

The senator’s meddling across the Capitol has drawn predictable attacks from Democrats.

“Whether it’s shutting down the government or stopping his own party’s efforts to appear relevant and in control on a key issue, Ted Cruz can always be counted on to lead the Republican Party to his own far right extremes – and further and further away from the rational middle ground that appeals to everyone other than the Tea Party base,” taunted American Bridge, a Democratic group.

Congress was due to leave town yesterday until the second week of September with GOP hopes that they could go out and campaign on the falsehood that they passed “comprehensive immigration reform,” which is a dog-whistle for “we kept the brown horde at bay.”  Now they have nothing, and the Republicans are so desperate that they’re planning on meeting again today to try and save something out of the mess, least of all their dignity.  Not as long as Ted Cruz — Joe McCarthy without the charm — has anything to say about it.

Were it not for the fact that it still gets nothing done about the immigration issue and that a lot of people on both sides of the border are suffering from this lack of action, the Republicans can comfort themselves with two thoughts.  First, they denied President Obama anything that could be seen as a victory for him, which has to count for something in the perverse minds of those who think that is the way to run a country.  Second, despite getting less done than any other Congress in history, it will not matter come November.  The polls indicate that not only will the voters not punish them, they will re-elect them at a rate that would make the North Korean legislature jealous and probably even pick up seats.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Big Talk, Little Action

For all their screaming about illegal children, the House Republicans came up with not a lot to show for putting their money where their mouth is.

House Republicans plan to vote Thursday on a bill that would provide less than a fifth of the funding the president requested to address the ongoing border crisis.

After more than 57,500 unaccompanied minors crossed the border illegally since October, President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion to care for them, speed up deportation proceedings and attempt to deter illegal immigration. Senate Democrats proposed a $2.7 billion package. But the House GOP plan went from an expected $1.5 billion as of a week ago to less than $1 billion on Friday. On Tuesday, House Republicans announced the funding had been pared down even further to a $659 million package that was introduced on Tuesday.

“I think we should do something before we go home, and we’re working to get there,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters after meeting with Republican members.

Two-thirds of the bill’s funding would go toward border security, such as dispatching National Guard troops to the border, while one-third of the money is meant to provide humanitarian assistance. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters he was “optimistic” that the bill would get strong support from Republicans, and said the lower price tag would help attract fiscal conservatives.

In other words, the bulk of the money goes to sending the National Guard to stand around in the hot summer sun.  There’s not much else they can do; it’s not like the kids are trying to sneak across the border; they’re trying to get the attention of the Border Patrol.

Meanwhile, they’re trying to revise a law that was passed by them in 2008 and signed by President Bush that gives the refugee children from Central America legal protection.  Now that President Obama is actually enforcing it, they think it’s a terrible law, of course.

Monday, July 28, 2014

George Will Channels Emma Lazarus

Fox News may be rethinking their contract with George Will.

Conservative columnist and Fox News contributor George Will has long been an advocate for immigration reform, including a conservative version of a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, for some time, but he took his position a bit further Sunday morning on Fox News Sunday. Referring to the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border from Mexico and other Central American countries — over 52,000 since last October — Will told host Chris Wallace that the United States should welcome these children with open arms.

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,’” Will implored. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”

Wallace warned that detractors will accuse Will of not understanding the issue, but he was undeterred. “We can handle this problem, is what I’m saying,” he reassured. “We’ve handled what Emma Lazarus famously called ‘the wretched refuse of your teeming shores’ a long time ago and a lot more people than this.”

He’s going to have to give back his Ted Nugent t-shirt collection now.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Short Takes

Russia tries to sound both tough and nice on response to jet attack.

Death toll continues to rise on both sides in Israel/Gaza conflict.

U.N. says Iran has turned much of its nuclear material to harmless use.

Perry sends Texas troops to border.

Wildfires continue to expand in Pacific Northwest.

Tropical Update: TD Two is east of the Lesser Antilles.

The Tigers beat the Diamondbacks 4-3.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Kids On The Bus

TPM has a video that encapsulates the racism and idiocy of some folks’ reaction to the refugees arriving in America:

Doofus congressional candidate tells how he saw the fear in the eyes of the migrant child being bused to a nearby shelter in on-going border crisis. Then confronted with the fact that they were local kids going to the YMCA.

If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be hilarious that all of these big tough right-wingers who sneer in the face of imagined evil-doers bringing their terror babies with calves the size of cantaloupes into the country are freaked out by the sight of a busload of ten-year-olds on their way to summer camp.