Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Here is the second issue of Capital Brief, from June 19, focusing on the consequences of Obama's executive order announcing a halt to deportation proceedings for certain young people.

Click below to read the Brief.

Capital Brief  
Amy Greene
Capital Brief, n°2 – June 19, 2012

US Elections: Obama’s Immigration Bombshell –
Political Gesture as Effective Electoral Weapon

  • Obama issued an executive order declaring that Homeland Security will not initiate deportation measures against some young people brought illegally to the United States before age 16. They must be under 30 years old, have lived in the US for five consecutive years, and be high school graduates or honorably discharged veterans without criminal records.
  • This is no long-term solution (says Obama), provides neither permanent legal status nor a path to citizenship: it is instead a two-year (unlimited) renewable reprieve. Young people granted this status will be able to apply for work permits, drivers and other professional licenses. This order fulfills some of the nearly dead DREAM Act (vetoed in 2010 by Congress, providing path to citizenship for these young people).
  • Critics argue that Obama’s executive order, which bypasses Congress entirely, pushes the boundaries of the Constitution and presidential power by refusing to enforce part of US criminal code. They reproach Obama as favoring illegal immigrants over US citizens needing jobs in a cynical electoral maneuver.
  • Obama’s counterarguments are both humanitarian (must provide economic opportunity for youth having grown up in US “illegally”) and efficiency-based (with limited resources to enact deportations, focus should not be on low-risk cases).

  • A largely symbolic gesture following a difficult moment in a dead-heat presidential race and (about 800,000 – 1.4 million people may be affected)
  • Why do it? Obama has presided over more deportations than any president. Hispanics were key to 2008 victory and will be critical in 2012. Their enthusiasm for Obama is on the decline and risk not to turn out for him as strongly this year. Not the only key group, Obama nonetheless needs their overwhelming support in high numbers.
  • The executive order achieves four goals for Obama:
    • Reassert his singular authority by wielding the full depth of legal power
    • Reenergize Hispanic voters in key states like Arizona, Colorado, Nevada
    • Highlight intolerance of the Republicans (esp. combined with recent public support for gay marriage) and its draconian social vision (Romney: immigrants should “self-deport”).  Builds social justice meme.
    • Allows Obama to accuse Republican Congress of obstruction. His reelection strategy focuses increasingly on running against unpopular Republican Congress, and on painting Romney as a vehicle of his party’s most ideological leaders and ideas.