What A Leader Does When The Cowards Won’t Act

When President Obama was speaking last night, I was thinking, “Dammit, this is what Democrats are supposed to do!” We’re supposed to bring some measure of mercy to people who otherwise would be without it, who otherwise would be at the mercy of the merciless. We’re supposed to lead this country into a more hopeful future. And, for all the foolish talk about how weak a leader he is, President Obama was a powerful leader last night. He looked right into the eyes of the American people and asked:

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, immigration speechand give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works together to keep them together?

Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America?

That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration. We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.

Hope over fear, help over hate. That’s what the Democratic Party should be about, and its leader should be about leading the country to embrace those values. President Obama, after waiting so long for Republicans to act, finally just shoved the cowards out of the way.

The President told the story of Astrid Silva, a beneficiary of his earlier order deferring deportation action for those undocumented young people—”DREAMers”—who were brought to the country as children. Silva became an immigration activist who demanded a more comprehensive fix to what “everybody knows,” as the President noted last night, is a “broken immigration system.” About her he said,

Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and she became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mom cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school, not because they didn’t love her, but because they were afraid the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant –- so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid, or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?

astrid silvaMost of the people who oppose this president—the people who want his political scalp, who want to sue him or impeach him or worse—are not fighting against Obama so much as they are fighting against the changing face of America that Obama, so dramatically, represents. Many of the millions of people who will be helped by his executive actions look like Astrid Silva and not like Rush Limbaugh. And you are kidding yourself if you don’t think that makes a difference. If those undocumented immigrants were mostly white, immigration reform would have happened a long time ago.

The questions that journalists should ask every single Republican in Congress who opposes Obama’s action are these: Why do you want to load up buses with hard-working people who adore America and send them away? Why do you want to break up families through deportation while simultaneously championing “family values”? And if not Obama’s way, then what way?

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9 Comments

  1. ansonburlingame

     /  November 21, 2014

    Duane,

    What Obama has done was the correct thing to do as far as reforming immigration. I also suspect that any court will say he did so legally, within the constituitional limits of Executive Power. Finally, it seems about 74% of Americans believe his approach is the correct approach, all the rhetoric aside, and considering simply the substance of his actions, primarily providing a legal means for SOME “illegals” to remain in America, but certainly not all of them.

    My concerns are, well concerns as well, however. No doubt Obama is pushing the limits of unilateral Executive Power. Such unilateral action resolves some issues of political divide, sort of a “screw you guys, I will do it my way”. Just imagine your outrage when a GOPer does the same thing. I can think of all sorts of examples that would have you and yours calling for ………!

    The long held tradition of American politics is compromise. The only time that failed to work was over the issue of slavery. Is immigration reform as great an issue as slavery? Please, I hope you and yours will not say Yes to that question. If you do so, say yes, then I have no idea how we will ever find a way to compromise. We need it so …….. will become the way American government works, instead of we need it but must find bipartisan ways to achieve such goals for ALL Americans.

    Last night was not the end, no where close to the end of this debate. If I had my way what Obama did last night would become the rule of law, bipartisan law. But such a law must go into details that will further divide in all likelyhood. For example, what does “passing a background check” really mean under Obama’s Order? Who does such checks and what criteria will be established to decide to deport someone based on just a background check? Who will ultimately make such a deportation decision and what is the critieria for “flunking the check”?

    Would “granma” with a DUI pass such a check and a “gang-banger” flunk it with the same criminal record, a single DUI? What will be done with the 15 year old kid selling drugs on a street corner, an illegal act?

    What now will be done with the 21 year old man or woman caught crossing the border, today, post Executive Order. Will they now be automatically deported? Or instead will we continue to allow them to go through lengthy and expensive court hearings to make a deportation decision? What are we the people now supposed to do with a “tomato picker”, an honest one but has only been here 4 years? How does he prove length of time in America and to whom must he prove it? I could go on but you and yours are smart enough to see potenial holes, big enough to drive trucks through in how the Order might be carried out in a huge bureaucracy.

    Obama has certainly now laid a political trap for the GOP, sort of the same trap he was in. The extremes of both sides want …….. Obama has now thrown red meat to his extremes by taking unilateral action. Now they will call for more to resolve such points as mentioned above and a long list of others. He has also gotten people like me on his side in this single case, even though I have strong concerns about what next for immigration reform. There is much more to do, obviously.

    Now the dummies on the right will mention, law suits, impeachment, shutdown the government, cut off any funding found possible to cut off for say Homeland Security Dept, etc. If they do so they will hand deliver the 2016 into Dem hands, for sure in my view. Doing nothing on immigration reform in the House or Senate next year by the GOP will deliver the same result as well, allowing the country to be ruled by Executive Order of real consequence for two years and hope like hell a GOPer gets into the White House, more one party government!!!

    Obama has laid down the gaunlet. The GOP must now pick it up and pass a truly bipartisan bill in the Senate and House and politically demand the President sign it, period. That should happen by the spring of next year and then see if the President blinks. Such action by the GOP and a few blue dog Dems would take immigration partially off the table for the 2016 which I am sure you and yours do not want to see happen.

    This isn’t over yet and won’t be until bipartisan action is taken, compromise.

    Anson

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    • I appreciate your response.

      We certainly agree that compromise it the way this stuff should work. What you are forgetting is that there is already a compromise bill awaiting a vote in the House. Fourteen Republicans signed onto it in the Senate and there were enough votes to pass it in the other chamber at one time. There isn’t going to be any further compromising. That was it and Obama knew it. It would have been futile to wait. He finally decided to do what he thought was right and realistic.

      Now, I am one of those who is not entirely comfortable with executive action on such an important matter, even though it has been done by presidents of both parties in the past. Like Obama, I wish it had been done through legislative action. But the reality is that we live in Tea Party times, in times where a significant number of Republicans no longer believe they are obliged to honor the age-old dictum for a democracy: compromise.

      And that’s why I support Obama’s action.

      Duane

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  2. genegarman

     /  November 21, 2014

    What do we say about anyone who enters the USA illegally? What do we say about Americans who hire illegals to work? What do we say about employers who pay slave labor wages to any worker? What do say about employers who are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and via their businesses hire illegals? What do we say about state legislators and members of Congress who know the border is not secure and refuse to secure the border by whatever means necessary?

    What is needed are legislators at both state and national levels who will enforce the law: If I were a state legislator or national congressman, I would:

    1. introduce legislation to secure our borders in the air, on land, and by sea, just as in war, regardless of the cost,

    2. return all illegals to their home country, and

    3. impose a mandatory one year prison sentence upon any American employer who hires any worker who is an illegal.

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    • Let’s see. You said that we should “return all illegals to their home country.” That, by most accounts, means you would deport more than 11 million people. Exactly what kind of police state do you envision creating that could accomplish such a task? Oh, my.

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  3. Troy

     /  November 21, 2014

    Why don’t you regressives come to your senses and come join our side. Come, be on the right side of our countries issues. Stop fighting progress.

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  4. KABE

     /  November 22, 2014

    I have been reading a little about Ellis Island this week and cannot help to think how things have changed. It says that as many as 10,000 people, mostly European, passed through the Island “within hours” of arriving in NY. They were screened for health issues and such, and then were taken by trains and boats to various destinations. 80% of all new comers were admitted immediately. 40% of Americans can be traced to Ellis Island.
    And why has this all of a sudden become a concern for the US, particularly the Far Right Conservatives? For 40 years this country has turned a blind eye as millions, mostly Latinos, crossed into the US. It truly baffles me how the Conservatives have attempted to place this countries immigration problems squarely on the Presidents shoulders, as is it never happened before.
    It seems every group of cheap labor brought into the US has been welcomed in some form or another until they were no longer useful. Slaves of course were the ultimate cheap labor and were welcomed in the South until society would no longer tolerate its existence. The Euros were welcomes as I have said above until the 20s, when the Great Depression hit and new immigration policies were enacted to slow the tide. They too were taken advantage of during this period, to the point that Labor Unions were formed. And now we have the Latinos, whom were hired for years, because they did work that “Americans wouldn’t do” Remember that mantra? They were hired and kept in the dark because greedy companies could avoid paying taxes and keep its new found employees under control.
    It seems now that there are so many Latinos here that it makes some people uncomfortable. It seems history is repeating itself, except now many think we can just send them home. LOL! And of course, we will never blame the primary culprit, which to me is pure American Greed!

    KABE

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  November 22, 2014

    I would hope for more interesting debate herein, not just another set of name calling, Troy!! I nor do many thinking conservatives, want to go back. We all want to move forward, grow America in the correct direction, for ALL Americans, not just slices of same.

    The essence of this immigration debate, in my view at least, is there in fact is a common ground. No sane American wants an open border, one with no controls over who enters America, legally.

    No sane American wants criminals, terrorists, people coming to America with the intent to do harm to anyone. As well no one wants “no loads”, people incapable of being productive members of society. Honest, hard working laborers are fine with me as they produce “picked tomatoes” for example. But if their son joins a gang and ……, well I don’t want that man to remain in America illegally. If the “man” in fact is a child, well Mom and Dad are responsible for the actions of children the last time I checked.

    How to legislate such things is beyond my ability for sure. I believe the 11 Million “illegals” fall into a traditional bell curve in terms of being productive members of society. A few will be “brillant”, super-productive and an equal number will be criminals, no loads, etc. The right side of that curve is easy to handle, legally. The left side is very difficult however and expensive and time consuming as all Hell as well.

    Two other quick points, evolving from the “right” in this matter. All Presidents in the last 50 years have NOT done what Obama has done. Obama has now waived standing law, unilaterally. Others merely “ordered” ways to enforce the law using reasonable prosecutorial discretion. We will argue forever over “reasonable” however.

    Second, the “learned 10 top constitutional lawyers” are ALL Dems, less one and he has ONLY contributed to Dem causes. As politicians always do, the administratin cherry picked a group of 10 lawyers to argue the case FOR the administration. Now the right will find its own “10 top constitutional lawyers” to argue the case for the right!! You all can see that one coming a mile away, damned lawyers. Where can we find truly honest ones, unbaised ones politically?

    I have learned this point however. The consitution is MUTE on the use of “Executive Power” other than it severly LIMITS such power in Article …….. Section……, the ennumerated powers of a president. $ Millions will now be earned by lawyers aruging this case I suppose.

    Solution? Easy! The new Congress MUST pass a BIPARTISAN bill reforming immigration, once and for all for the next 10 or so years at least. I continue to call for TWO party government, not just ONE party.

    Anson

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  6. Well, I thought ObamaCare was the biggest source of contention between the parties, but now it appears that immigration is at least its equal. Emotions on the subject are raw, and that can be seen in Gene Garman’s comment above, wherein he proposes:

    1. introduce legislation to secure our borders in the air, on land, and by sea, just as in war, regardless of the cost,

    2. return all illegals to their home country, and

    3. impose a mandatory one year prison sentence upon any American employer who hires any worker who is an illegal.

    A writer for Forbes magazine notes that to truly seal the 700-mile border with double fencing would take 20,000 more border patrol agents and cost about $40,000 per illegal deported. I gather that capture and deportation is the aim, rather than just shooting them or blowing them up with land mines, a la Berlin wall. And even this scheme neglects the possibility of sensors and patrols along the Gulf coast. Pretty pricey.

    I thought Duane’s comment covered #2 well, except to add that the forcible deportation of some of the Dreamers who were brought here illegally and who grew up as Americans would make for some interesting YouTube clips. STEM jobs are going unfilled and we would be deporting some scientists, engineers and at least one Pulitizer-winning journalist.

    As to #3, personally I think the whole problem (as seen by the GOP) would go away if we did that. It wouldn’t be that hard, actually. Just make employers legally responsible for official identification of every worker, say, equivalent to what the GOP wants to require of voters in Texas. Why do you suppose the Republicans haven’t proposed that? Could it possibly be that employers kind of like having cheap part-time labor for which they don’t have to pay benefits and who are too scared to complain about working conditions and safety? Surely not. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ansonburlingame

     /  November 24, 2014

    I did not agree with Garman’s points and remained silent. Duane spoke for me in his reply, more or less.

    What is the ultimate purpose of any immigration laws in America is not really an argument in America, big picture wise if you will. I tried to spell it out briefly above.

    HOW to enforce any laws is a different issue. Face it, SOME people MUST be deported. Who and how to pick them is the issue, is it not? Right now it is a crap shoot by and large. WE MUST control our borders, obviously. Who do we keep out and how is the detail of disagreements.

    Which is a bigger argument now, HC or Immigration, Jim points out. I refuse to pick and choose between the two for one simple reason.

    It remains HOW H/C reform was achieved and HOW the President is now trying to reform Immigration. BOTH cases are one party attempts to govern America on HUGE public issues.

    It took a war to abolish slavery. But other than that issue TWO party government changed all sorts of things like Civil Rights. Constitutional changes,. every war ever fought until ……. , and the list goes on. Any BIG thing ever done by or in America became a two party decision by and large and the country united behind both parties in execution of such over decades, half centuries, etc. America only does big things when it is a united America.

    When one party completely rejects a particular “solution” to a big issue something is really wrong in America and that particular “solution” (ACA) is going to be battered and bruised for a long time until it is changed, modified, to be more palatable to at least some members of one party. Now we see an ACA-;like shove down the throats of a whole party in dealing with Immigration.

    I support in essence what Obama has now so “ordered” but feel MUCH more is needed as well and previously written about such herein. But the WAY he implemented such a “policy change” is NOT the American way to govern, in my view at least.

    The will of the people as expressed in every election since 2008 is to keep a divided government with neither party gaining unilateral power. American voters took one party rule out of GOP hands in 2006 as well.

    That recent one party government (DEMS only in charge for two years) scared the living hell out of MANY, the majority, of Americans. Your solution herein is to elect more Dems and return to more one party government. God help us all if that happens and sticks for a period of time, like a decade or so. And a one party GOP government would be just as bad for America today, you of course saying “worse”!!

    If or when one party becomes a “king” in America, well the last time such governed America, a king, we all know what happened.

    Anson

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