September 16, 2014 | Commentary on Immigration, Latin America, President Barack Obama

Obama to Latinos: I'm not that into you

In the annals of cynical political maneuvers, President Obama’s decision to postpone executive action on immigration until after the election must win some sort of prize. It’s not just the rawness of the political calculation but also the chutzpah of insisting that the decision came because acting now would have doomed long-lasting reform.

Nobody believes that, and the White House knows it. What’s more, the White House knows we know. We learned in high school that some kids get some sort of kick out of being openly brazen, daring weak-willed teachers to stop them.

Al Sharpton isn’t the only Obama booster who has vowed never to criticize the president. This White House knows that support from rock-ribbed progressives will never let the President’s numbers go too far south of 35 percent. It also knows that journalists will dutifully stenograph the explanation. Case in point: The Washington Post’s front-page report that “the decision to delay was also driven by the calculation that a unilateral move in the heat of the electoral season could doom the chances of more sweeping immigration reform beyond Obama’s presidency.”

The more skeptical among us know three things for sure.

One, if executive action involves legalizing the residency of millions of illegal immigrants, it will probably itself be illegal. On this we have no lesser an authority than, um, the current President of the United States. On March 28, 2011, Mr. Obama said at a Univision event — at Bell Multicultural High School, no less — that:

With respect to 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 — and I know that everybody here at Bell is studying hard so you know that we’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws.

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.

Two, executive action for illegal immigrants is not popular with the electorate. Despite the White House’s cynical protestations, we know that senators from places as geographically varied as Maine, North Carolina and Alaska complained to the White House that any type of executive legalization would make Democrats endangered species at home. Translation: it would divide an already divided country further. The White House has now decided that it will have its cake and eat it too by legalizing illegal immigrants after the elections and thus (it thinks) growing the rolls of Democratic voters.

Which brings us to three. The White House sees Hispanics as mere electoral pawns, and disposable ones at that. President Obama makes a big deal out of giving Latinos a shout out, always enunciating the PC term as “Lateenos,” with the long E and the hard T, and always doing his best Cervantes imitation when pronouncing Spanish surnames. (Confoundedly, he doesn’t do that with Americans’ surnames when they hail from other European countries, like say, Germany: he doesn’t do the full Goethe with names like Rumsfeld, for example).

But that’s the extent of the lip service. Time and again, Obama has promised illegal immigrant activists that he would do amnesty, only to kick them to the back of the bus when that became politically expedient. In 2010, Hispanics famously gave the President 71 percent support after being ignored. So why not be dismissive of illegal immigration activists again?

But here’s what’s worse: His amnesty would have done nothing for the 45 million or so Hispanics who are in this country legally. It would not improve schools for their children. To do so he would have to tangle with the teachers’ unions, and in that contest, Hispanics are, again, numero two.

It would not improve family formation. Obama would risk being given the “blame-the-victim-first” given to Bill Cosby if he discussed the need for Hispanic fathers in the home, so forget that, too.

Nor would amnesty free Hispanic Americans from the clutches of having their success be contingent on government action. For that, Obama would have to dismantle the affirmative action machine, and he’s not going to do that.

At the end of the day, President Obama sees Hispanics as raw numbers: new voters who he thinks will give his party future victories. But to make sure all those potential votes support big government, he must make sure that he adds to their numbers without improving their lot.

 - Mike Gonzalez is a Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Mike Gonzalez Senior Fellow
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

Originally appeared in the Washington Examiner