Why should we trust Barack Obama on immigration reform?

COMMENTARY Immigration

Why should we trust Barack Obama on immigration reform?

Feb 7, 2014 2 min read

Former President

After serving in the Senate, DeMint served as President of The Heritage Foundation.

President Obama has been quite up-front about it: he refuses to enforce laws he dislikes and unilaterally changes others without the consent of Congress. The Supreme Court may soon have to decide the constitutionality of all this but, in the meantime, many are wondering why Congress would believe they can trust the president to work with them in good faith on any issue.

Still more are scratching their heads over the notion that now, when Obamacare is hurting millions and the economy is still sputtering, Congress should put off dealing with those problems and, instead, work with Mr. Obama on immigration.

I've travelled the country, and no one seems to understand it. No wonder people are so fed up with Washington.

According to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent say our nation is headed in the wrong direction. The most recent Pew Survey found that 80 percent of Americans now distrust the federal government.

How bad is that? When Pew first asked that question during the Eisenhower administration, only 23 percent of Americans distrusted their government. Even at end of the Vietnam War and during Watergate, distrust was only 60 percent. Americans do not think politicians are listening to them.

What are Americans saying about immigration? Only 3 percent think it is a top priority. They are far more concerned about the economy, health care, debt, spending, and government corruption.

When asked about immigration, they say they want to see the border secured and our current laws enforced. Yet only 5 percent think it is very likely that a new immigration law will actually seal the border.

Amnesty, we know, doesn't solve our immigration problems and is unpopular with the American people. Cobbling it together with more popular, commonsense policies to sweeten the deal isn't a new strategy. In 1986, Congress promised workplace enforcement and border security in exchange for an amnesty of 3 million. Those promises were never adequately kept, however, and today we have an unlawful population of more than 10 million.

Last year the Senate passed a 1,100-page bill that included immediate amnesty along with promises of reform and security in the future. Republican leaders in the House say they won't take up the Senate bill. But that promise got harder to believe last week, when they released "Standards for Immigration Reform." The "Standards" follow the same tack as the Senate bill: fix every problem with a comprehensive approach.

The threshold question lawmakers should ask is: Why trust President Obama to enforce new immigration laws when he is not enforcing the current ones? The president has a constitutional duty to enforce our laws. And here, Mr. Obama is derelict.

He decided unilaterally to cease enforcing immigration law with respect to those who came here unlawfully as children. By any reasonable standard, that should have required a change in the law. Instead, the president issued a memo.

By now policymakers ought to understand: President Obama is not a reliable partner and cannot be relied upon to enforce our immigration laws.

Are there common-sense solutions to our immigration problems? Of course. We can create a workable legal immigration system, secure the border, and enforce current workplace laws, for starters. Congress could consider ideas for a practical, temporary worker program such as that being promoted by businesswoman Helen Krieble, called the Red Card Solution.

But can we trust the president to abide by any deal on immigration? No. President Obama has shown disdain for Congress and the law. He has made a mockery of the Founders' separation of power.

The failures of the Obama administration are now very much in evidence, and the American people will find it hard to believe that the opposition party has decided to rush in and rescue the president from his own failed policies.

As policymakers in Congress consider what to do this year, they would be wise to focus on the economy, jobs and health care - Americans' top priorities.

Trusting the president to enforce new immigration laws while he ignores the current ones is a losing bet, and an unpopular one at that.

 - Jim DeMint is the president of The Heritage Foundation.

Originally distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service