The Republicans Must Support Immigration Reform Forget about fights on the legality of presidential decrees. This is a major political issue. Do the Republicans really want to be on the wrong side of a humane reform?

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WASHINGTON – The Republicans are in a real bind. Sure they won the November 4 elections. And by a huge margin. But now President Obama is fighting back. And he has a powerful weapon: immigration reform by “executive order”.

Unconstitutional

Of course the Republicans cry foul. “He cannot do this. It is unconstitutional. He cannot unilaterally suspend the law. This a power grab. Blah, blah, blah.” Well, the Republicans may be right. But, guess what, it does not matter. Obama is going to do this anyway. And so, what are they going to do to stop him? Try to impeach him?

Via executive order –details aside– Obama will de facto legalize millions of immigrants. And he will do so while claiming the moral high ground. Indeed, it is a fact that America needs an immigration reform package that will have to include a path to the legalization of about 11 million illegal, (“undocumented” is the polite, politically correct definition), immigrants. It is also a fact that a bipartisan compromise bill that had been passed by the Senate more than a year ago, with Democrats and some Republican supporting it, died in the House because of a vociferous minority within the Republican House majority, (mostly the Tea Party crowd), that would not even consider any path leading to the legalization of millions of people, many of whom have been here in America for years, even decades.

President has a valid argument

And so Obama can say that he waited and waited for Congress to take action. But now it is the time to do something. If the Republicans do not want to do “the right thing”, he will do so, using his executive powers, as he interprets them.

The president claims that he has the authority under the Constitution to grant a reprieve to millions of illegal immigrants.

The Republicans better watch out. They may be right on the fact that Obama with this decree may be doing something unconstitutional. But they should keep in mind that the real battle here is political and moral, not legal.

Obama will win this one

Obama will win this one in the court of public opinion. This is absolutely certain. And if the GOP continues to drag its feet invoking the Constitution, there will be only one political outcome.

The whole country, and the millions of Latino voters in particular, will see that the Democrats are on the side of reform leading to inclusiveness, while the nasty Republicans are resisting it.

Of course, ideally we should have a comprehensive immigration bill that should be balanced. A path to legalization; but no quick amnesty for all. There should be special provisions for guest workers. There should be a much larger quota for super qualified scientists. And also provisions for improved border security, as a deterrent against future would-be illegal border crossers.

Divided GOP

But Obama is rushing the process via unilateral action, this way exposing well-known divisions within the Republican Party between the practical reformers and the ideological opponents of any legalization for illegal immigrants.

Do not place the party on the wrong side of this argument

Let me say this again. The last thing that the Republicans want is to be on the wrong side of an issue that may define them for decades to come (may be for ever) as anti-immigrant and anti-Latinos. Going forward, this outcome would spell political disaster.

The Republicans will need Latino votes in future elections. If they close ranks and oppose Obama on this, it may be impossible to repair the damage of what will amount to a major political and public relations disaster.

Do the right thing

The Republican leaders in Congress should work with the President on any immigration reform plan. Even if this causes truly unpleasant frictions within their ranks.

And please forget about constitutional debates. This is about redefining the Republican Party as an inclusive, national political force that acts guided by humane values and pragmatism, welcoming with open arms all good faith, honest immigrants, (including those who broke the law in the past by entering the US or staying here without proper permits).

Let me stress that this approach towards immigration is not about being politically smart. This is the right thing to do.

Thanks to President Obama, the modality to get from here to there will be messy. And this is unfortunate. But it is still the right thing to do.

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