(Jim Clark) – Lately it seems that every time President Obama takes a step, he lands in dog doo. His remark, “The private sector is doing fine,” seems to have blown up in his face. The Week, a news magazine, ran a story headlined: “Obama: Will his ‘private sector’ gaffe cost him the election?”
And then he barged into the dog fight between Congressman Issa and Attorney General Holder by claiming executive privilege against Issa’s subpoena for documents in the “Fast and Furious” gun-running debacle. While such privilege is appropriate in limited cases, it is not after an 18-month fight for documents; it should have been raised when Holder first decided to resist the subpoena, not days before he was held in contempt.
President Obama’s one move that drew rave reviews from the liberal press was his decision to exempt young illegal Latinos from deportation because they were too young when brought into the US by their parents to have willingly flaunted US laws. That policy polled 64% positively and 30% negatively, a political grand slam when other things aren’t looking so good.
I have an unbroken record in this space of haranguing Republicans to reach out to Latinos. They are a natural constituency for the GOP being hard-working, family-oriented and religious. I believe what President Obama did was the right thing to do; he just did it the wrong way. As liberal syndicated columnist Froma Harrop wrote: “The right thing for the wrong reason.”
I think it will end up biting him on the backside.
Here are the reasons why.
First, Obama got overwhelming support from Latino voters in 2008 by running on a pledge to enact comprehensive immigration reform. But once he was elected, with a big majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, his Legislative program centered on stimulus laws and Obamacare.
Democrats now claim that Senate Republicans killed immigration reform, but from January 2009 to January 2011, the GOP did not have the votes to stop anything Obama and the Democrats wanted to do.
Second, the Obama Administration has deported far more illegal Hispanics than any other administration . . . over one million. Latinos can be excused for wondering whether Obama had a “Road to Damascus” experience to cause this sudden turn around. Or, is this just a cynical political gambit spawned by the upcoming election?
Third, US immigration laws were passed by Congress. Does a president have the authority to cull out an exception in their enforcement with the stroke of a pen?
In fact, has Obama thrown even more fuel on the fire?
The criminal law doctrine of selective enforcement arises when the government applies a law to some people but not others. There is an abundance of legal precedent for this (Yick Wo vs. Hopkins, 118 US 356, see also George Mason Law Review, Feb. 2007, James Kozlowski, JD, PhD). The net effect is that a selectively enforced law is unconstitutional . . . inapplicable to anyone. It is a total defense to a criminal charge meaning that every illegal can challenge deportation in the courts because of the way this policy came about.
The big danger for Obama is the contrast with what he promised Latino voters when he first ran and what he actually delivered during the two years Democrats had absolute control of Washington. The Chinese have a saying: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Maybe their Latino brothers and sisters will agree this November.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)