Well, not so fast. All those deportees-in-waiting could have their newly-issued working papers, drivers' licenses and other paraphernalia of "legality" yanked out from under them at the drop of a hat. Or, as Obama himself sensitively put it on Saturday,
There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I’m exercising too much executive authority: Pass a bill I can sign on this issue. Give me a bill that addresses those issues, I’ll be the first one to sign it. And metaphorically I’ll crumple up whatever executive actions we will take and toss them in the waste basket because we will now have a law that addresses these issues.It's good to know that the president will only "metaphorically" crumple up the hopes and dreams and civil rights of the newly reprieved and throw them away the minute the Republicans signal they want to make a deal on immigration reform. His statement is bound to cheer up the 11 million people in this country "illegally" as well as the American-born children whose parents had the poor taste to be born across some border that exists only for human beings without much money in their pockets.... but not for the southbound border-crossing guns, and NAFTA-enabled, outsourced jobs and mobile factories which cross it each and every day. And not for the drugs and profits and cheap labor that flow north into the pockets of American oligarchs each and every day.
Obama's temporary granting of amnesty actually falls to the ideological right of the relief granted by Ronald Reagan to several million alien residents in 1986. As Julia Preston writes in the New York Times,
Unlike that law, which gave permanent-resident green cards to 2.7 million immigrants, Mr. Obama’s executive actions will not provide any formal, lasting immigration status, much less a pathway to citizenship.
The actions will, however, have a large and, White House officials hope, swift impact on the daily lives of many immigrant families, removing fears that relatives could be separated from one another by deportations. Many immigrants will also receive work permits, which will give them Social Security numbers and allow them to work legally under their own names and travel within the United States, although not abroad. In some states, they will be able to get driver’s licenses and professional certificates.All of which the president will gladly crumple up and toss in the circular file the minute the Republicans pass a bill which would not necessarily be so generous. As a matter of fact, the previous Senate bill that died in the House was light on the humanitarianism and heavy on the militarized border and rewards to Silicon Valley in the form of cheap imported tech labor. The "pathway to citizenship" contained in that bill included a draconian ten-year waiting period for actual civil rights while still requiring foreign workers to pay income taxes. No taxation without representation would not apply.
So while my first impulse was to applaud the president for his gesture of humanity, I am now having my usual cynical second thoughts. Obama, the deporter-in-chief of more people than under any previous administration, could simply be using these millions of people as political pawns and eventual human waste product. Combined with his other recent liberal gestures -- calling for net neutrality, and the joint promise with China to curb pollution -- this immigration action could simply represent just another check on his legacy to-do list. The object is for Barack Obama to be perceived by the Latino voters as trying to do the right thing, and for Republicans to be perceived as the only bad guys in the neoliberal duopoly.
If, however, Obama orders universal and unconditional amnesty, with no strings attached, I will be the first to stand up and applaud his political courage under fire.
But here's what I'm afraid of: His executive action will simply serve as the magnet to bring five million undocumented people out into the open and more exposed than ever. The better to catch them and jail them and deport them, my dears.
Meanwhile, the Latino advocacy group Presente.Org is not happy with the president's piecemeal approach, because it gratuitously leaves out half the undocumented immigrants -- based solely on the fact that they don't belong to a "traditional" (read, Republican) family unit:
As President Obama considers options for an upcoming executive order on immigration policy, Presente.org, the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group, strongly rejects rumored administration proposals for an executive order covering less than half of the more than 11 million undocumented Americans in the US-- and is instead pushing for relief for all undocumented immigrants.
“We want relief from an all out assault on Latino family unity-- we need more than lip service to combat the rampant racial profiling and deportations currently plaguing our communities. Anything short of relief for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in America will ensure ongoing mass-deportations and separation of Latino families,” said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org, the nation's largest online Latino organizing group. “With the amount of hate against Latinos on display shown by Republican leaders in the House, we need President Obama to seize the opportunity and fight back against his ‘deporter in chief’ status.”Immigration amnesty under Obama sounds a lot like the for-profit health insurance marketplace sweepstakes. A few million people will be granted relief, while millions more continue to live in fear, suffer, and even die. You'll never find out if you win it because you'll never be told what's actually in it. Everything good is either temporary or stop-gap, to be renewed annually in order to keep the fear and confusion at the absolute maximum.
Somewhere along the way, human rights turned into a lottery, and the social contract got crumpled up and tossed in the circular file.