With just six and a half months left in office, it’s time to think about what President Obama’s legacy will look like on one of his most difficult subjects: immigration.
What will history say about Obama’s skill at the juggling act that will confront every U.S. president in the 21st century — securing our borders, providing a foreign workforce to do jobs that Americans won’t do, and deciding the fate of millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States?
In truth, Obama has accomplished very little in pursuit of each of those goals. Where he excelled was in the politics. He is a master of convincing everyone — law-and-order conservatives, Latinos who want more immigration, working-class whites who want less, etc. — that he’s on their side. We’ve never had a president who was this good at cynically manipulating the immigration issue to pretend to be something he’s not.
And occasionally, Obama catches a major break when another branch of government steps in and prevents him from doing something that he never wanted to do anyway — like protecting undocumented immigrants from the 24/7 deportation machine that he helped create and used to expel nearly 3 million people.
The Supreme Court recently announced that it had deadlocked in a case challenging Obama’s plan to use executive action to slow deportations and grant temporary work permits to millions of illegal immigrants. The 4-4 tie left in place an appeals court ruling that blocked the plan.
Obama is off the hook. His supporters will give him credit for trying, and he and the Democratic Party don’t have to live with what could have been the negative consequences of achieving real change. It’s the best of both worlds.
By Ruben Navarrette Jr. of mySA
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