Obama’s Amnesty Speech, Deconstructed
Tonight we were treated to a spectacle eerily reminiscent of a scene from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, in which Chancellor Palpatine of the Galactic Republic declares a reorganization into the Galactic Empire and makes himself an emperor. That scene ends with a great quote from Padme Amidala, the character played by Natalie Portman, who laments “So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.”
The good news is the thunderous applause was only heard among the illegal immigrants gathered outside the White House to rejoice in the lawlessness of an American president abjectly refusing to faithfully execute American laws. The majority of the country had no such reaction, and sees this bitter, cynical assault on limited government and the rule of law for what it is.
Here was how our own Palpatine, Barack Obama, abandoned his role as president and usurped the power to make law on immigration…
My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.
For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities –- people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.
No one has questioned whether immigration is an asset to the United States. To introduce that question as a predicate for this speech is to open by attacking a straw man with a flamethrower, as our president is fond of doing.
But today, our immigration system is broken — and everybody knows it.
Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.
Remember, this is how Obama introduces a plan to grant de facto amnesty that would make it easier for people to flout the rules and come to this country, and for unscrupulous employers to find illegals willing to work off the books.
It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.
When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.
There is no evidence to support a claim that illegal border crossings are down. What has dropped off has been arrests of illegals, and that isn’t by any means a reliable measure of the actual numbers of people crossing that border. The fact that Obama claims interdictions along the border along with deportations as evidence of how many people he’s kicking out of the country makes him look like he’s tougher on the border than he really is.
Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.
Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.
Well, guess what – if it doesn’t pass the House, it doesn’t get to your desk. And that means it isn’t law. Just like the 300 bills the House has passed in the current Congress that Harry Reid won’t allow a vote on in the Senate aren’t law. The fact you wish the Gang of Eight bill had become law and you think maybe it might have passed in the House if it had been brought up for a vote really doesn’t matter. It’s not law. We call this basic American civics.
Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President –- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me -– that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.
Tonight, I am announcing those actions.
Interesting. Here are some relatively recent quotes by Barack Obama…
The notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order. That’s just not the case. Because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system. That for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president. – March, 2011
I can’t solve this problem by myself. We’ll have to have bipartisan support to make it happen. – April, 2011
We’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend I can do something by violating our laws. – November, 2013
I can’t simply ignore laws that are out there. I have to work to make sure they’re changed. – October, 2010
I know some wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself.
But that’s not how a democracy works. See, a democracy is hard. But it’s right. Changing our laws means doing the hard work of changing minds and changing votes one by one. – April, 2011
Sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, you know, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how a democracy works. – May, 2011
Now, I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books. Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the law on my own. Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting.
I promise you. Not just on immigration reform.
But that’s not how our system works. – July, 2011
That was then. This is now.
First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.
Nobody believes that he’ll follow through on that. Had he stopped there, as a measure of good faith to the newly-elected Republican majority in both houses of Congress which has prioritized border security as a prerequisite to any action on immigration and said that he recognizes that prerequisite and the national consensus around it and will work to secure the confidence of the nation in solving that problem first, this would have been a constructive speech.
Securing the border is the one facet of this debate everyone seems to agree on – except Obama. We saw how committed to securing the border Obama was during that crisis on the border this summer with the Guatemalan/Salvadoran/Honduran Children’s Crusade, in which the flood of immigrants wasn’t turned back but relocated across the country.
If he was serious about getting something done, and executing the policy the American people want to see executed, he’d do what he can to come to a deal with Congress on border security. Once the border is understood to be secure – not just because Obama says it is but because Congress and the border governors agree that it is, whether because there’s a fence, a robust Border Patrol presence from Tijuana to Matamoros or because nobody is trying to get into the country anymore – then it will be politically possible to reach a consensus on immigration policy.
Remember consensus? We used to think that was a requirement in order to make policy. Now, so long as Obama and Valerie Jarrett agree that seems to be all we need to change the law.
Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.
That’s another aspect of immigration law that, if Obama were actually interested in getting a deal with Congress on, could be passed by constitutional means. There is debate still necessary on the question of upper-tier immigration but it’s hardly such that a compromise all sides can live with can’t be made.
But that gets destroyed when you demand that it be rolled into a poisonous “comprehensive” package there is no consensus for. If Obama were to propose a reform to cover skilled immigrants as a standalone, he could get it passed in both houses on Capitol Hill and there would be no reason for him to attempt it by executive fiat.
Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.
I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable -– especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.
The Las Vegas Sun doesn’t share Obama’s characterization of his efficiency in getting rid of criminal illegals. The Sun is the liberal paper in Vegas.
But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally. And let’s be honest -– tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours. As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”
Saying that illegals are part of American life is not the same thing as saying illegals have the same hopes, dreams and patriotism as the rest of us. Go check out a La Raza rally if you disagree, and you’ll get a nice education on that topic. And while it’s not a lie to say most of the illegals are bad people, or a menace to society, like our friend Mike Bayham says it’s a bit overwrought to try to characterize the guys hanging out in front of Home Depot as a bunch of latter-day Anne Franks.
And nobody is talking about rounding up 12 million illegals. What is being discussed is making it a bit more unattractive to be an illegal alien here – how generous the social benefits should be, how much of a magnet we should be offering to those who would follow the current crop here, how strict the feds should be on companies who hire illegals, and so on. Obama is burning straw men once again.
Now here’s the thing: We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes — you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.
Except it’s temporary. How exactly is that going to work? What if somebody has been using a fake Social Security number for five years while working in America? That’s identity theft. Are we not going to prosecute it? And as Hugh Hewitt noted…
The people in the country illegally will know shortly that this stunt tonight does not help them and may in fact hurt them –badly. The collision of what is in essence a letter of recommendation from the president to employers with their genuine worries about liabilities under state law and about their fiduciary duties to their customers is going to be instant, and not to the good of the illegal population. Employers are going to flee the president’s testimonial that, if he were king of the forest, not queen, not duke, not earl, he’d let this person have a green card. Because he’s not king, he cannot bless this person’s employment in the real world of tort liability and state law. He cannot solve the issue of Social Security and unemployment insurance withholding. What he can –and will do tonight– is mark the illegal as someone not worth the trouble of hiring.
The president simply cannot bestow a green card. Just a blessing. An Obama blessing. The blessing of a cheater.
The president’s lawless act will have the apparently contradictory impact of both making life harder for “those in the shadows” by increasing the reluctance of employers to hire the obviously illegal, while at the same time attracting millions more north across the fenceless border. Employers are simply going to be less willing to hire the obviously illegal because of a host of other laws the president cannot change.
In other words, this doesn’t give any incentive for illegals to come out of the shadows and get right with the law. Not for a temporary reprieve. If they’ve managed to stick around and not get deported so far, either because they’re being employed off the books or because they’ve got a fake Social Security card, and Obama just said it’s not realistic for the government to find them and deport them, then why would they change anything based on this? Coming out of the shadows for a temporary blessing isn’t much of a deal.
The folks in Guadalajara and Tegucigalpa who want to come here probably look at this as an invitation to come here. The folks already here won’t see this as much of a change.
Now, let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive -– only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.
Then why register as an illegal? If you’re not going to get deported, the thing to do is to shut up and do what you’re doing. But by saying “we’re not going to deport you,” you’re inviting all of Latin America and South Asia and whoever else can get here to come on in. They don’t hear anything else other than that.
I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today -– millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.
Well, that’s a lie. When you say you’re not going to enforce the laws against people who break them, that’s amnesty. That you’re not currently enforcing the laws against the lawbreakers doesn’t change this fact.
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. What I’m describing is accountability –- a common-sense, 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.
Again, it’s not accountability. Accountability would be to say “you’re going to have to register and pay back taxes or else we’re going to come get you and send you home.” But Obama didn’t offer that choice. We’re being Grubered.
The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And 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.
Wrong. No president has used an executive order on immigration to contradict law as passed by Congress. And as we related above, he’s said that very thing countless times in the past. As for this “pass a bill” business, it smacks of blackmail, and it also smacks of a wannabe dictator. Congress will pass a bill when the conditions – namely, a public consensus in favor of policy and the trust the newly-passed law will be faithfully executed – a bill’s passage usually requires are met, and not before. For him to demand otherwise is akin to wiping his derriere with the Constitution and the American legislative tradition. It is an outrageous affront to our republic.
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. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose –- a higher purpose.
Obama doesn’t have a clue how our democracy works. If he did he would recognize that breaking this issue down to component parts in which a consensus can be reached, taking deals on those parts and solving the problem incrementally is the most productive way to go. He has never gone that route, and instead he puts blame for a shutdown of the government on Congress when he knows that the appropriations process is the only means short of impeachment they have to rein him in – another example of his cynicism.
Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship.
I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.
Here, Obama is talking to the black community – who he is absolutely betraying with a brazen impunity difficult to imagine after all they’ve done for him. An amnesty, which will serve as a magnet for untold millions more illegals, is going to destroy upward mobility for those in disadvantaged communities across the country and particularly for black Americans who are already in dire economic straits. Immigrants might well be a net plus for society, but importing millions of unskilled and dirt-cheap workers to compete with black kids in inner cities already struggling to overcome lousy schools (which will get worse as they’re filled with illegal kids who don’t speak English proficiently and might well bring with them membership in violent gangs from places like El Salvador) and disadvantaged economic backgrounds will only make it more difficult for those kids to climb the economic ladder.
It’s cruel. It’s a breathtaking betrayal. The black community ought to turn on this man like it’s never turned on anybody as a response.
Somebody call Elbert Guillory and get him on video talking about this.
Because for all the back and forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.
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, and give their kids a better future?
Hypocrisy? These people weren’t brought here as slaves, and they can leave at any time. They’re finding work perhaps doing jobs Americans won’t do, but the American labor participation rate is lower now than it’s been in nearly 40 years. And how do we know that legal immigrants wouldn’t make beds or pick fruit?
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?
Can’t those families be together back home in Oaxaca or Karachi or Port-au-Prince?
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?
Again – if Obama earnestly desires to fix this problem he need only signal that he would sign a stand-alone bill to address it and one would pass so quickly it would shock him.
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. I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it.
Is there a world record for cynicism? Perhaps this should set it. This speech is nothing but Obama’s politics as usual.
Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government, and at risk any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love.
These people –- our neighbors, our classmates, our friends –- they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.
Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. 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.
Government-by-sob-story is a Democrat staple. Obama is a master of the craft.
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? Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger –- we were strangers once, too.
Of course, Scripture. Why doesn’t he quote the Koran while he’s at it? It’s truly rich for a progressive socialist whose quiver is always filled with advocacy for legalized theft, fornication, infanticide and buggery to quote Scripture.
My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal -– that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.
Another straw man. Nobody is saying we can’t have immigrants. The question is whether we can have control over the process. Executive amnesty in contravention of the laws of the land only weakens that control.
That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless this country we love.
For some of us, that’s debatable. If you love something you’re not willing to bend it until it breaks.