President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that he intended to enact immigration reform by executive order, granting millions of illegal immigrants protection from deportation, was immediately the subject of sharp criticism, not just from Republicans and immigration hard-liners, but also from those who have advocated for immigration reform and increased opportunities for immigrants to obtain work and live in the United States. Breitbart Texas spoke with several conservative Hispanics who shared their unique perspectives on why Obama’s plan is the wrong solution for America’s immigration challenges.
Breitbart Texas interviewed Rachel Campos-Duffy, The LIBRE Initiative’s National Spokesperson and wife of Republican Congressman Sean Duffy, and shared her organization’s concerns about Obama’s executive orders. “The concern that we have at LIBRE is, because because it’s a temporary fix, it’s only as good as long as this president is president, and can be overturned by a court, or by another president,” she said. “As Hispanics, we want immigration reform, but we want it done right.” Campos-Duffy characterized immigration as a “very complex, arcane issue” and the President could not expect to “with a wave of your pen solve all of the problems.” A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll said that only 42 percent of Hispanics agreed with Obama taking action by executive order, which was “not a very high number when you think about how many want immigration reform,” she said.
She also worried that Obama’s plan could end up causing more harm than help for immigrants, because of its uncertainty and lack of permanence, saying that it could end up “coaxing people out of the shadows and potentially exposing them to potential deportation,” if their applications were denied or if the policy was later reversed.
“I don’t understand how something this complex can be decreed,” continued Campos-Duffy. She called the executive orders a “poke in the eye” against Congressional Republicans, the latest in a troubling line of executive orders covering issues like Obamacare, marijuana prosecutions, DACA, etc., where every time Obama has taken this step, “he kills the chance of finding a compromise,” and makes it even more challenging for any bipartisan legislation to happen. Obama has created a “real lack of trust between conservatives and the president,”she said, making them fear agreeing to any compromises at all, because they expect that he will decide what laws he wants to enforce no matter what. “That’s what happens when you do these kind of exec actions instead of hammering out the details through the legislative process,” said Campos-Duffy. “Everything [Obama has] done, ramming this through, chips away at the trust between the parties and makes it less likely that we’ll get the immigration reform we all want: something real, something durable.”
One of LIBRE’s significant concerns, shared by many other conservatives, is the lack of border security measures in Obama’s plan. “If you don’t include border security, you’re just going to have another wave of undocumented people coming across the border,” said Campos-Duffy. “What do we do to stem the flow of more people coming?”
This summer’s border crisis was a good illustration of the problems of the President’s approach, according to Campos-Duffy, who said it showed the “unintended consequences” of his decision to expand the protections under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to the “most sympathetic group” of immigrants — the “DREAMers,” those brought here illegally by their parents while they were young children — instead of letting Congress continue to work on legislation. She said Obama’s actions were “completely politically motivated and not helpful to what the DREAMERs actually wanted,” and sharply criticized its lack of certainty and how it created incentives for parents to send their children on the long, dangerous journey alone, where they suffered from heat, dehydration, and hunger and were all too often abused and sexually assaulted along the way — if they even survived the trip. “I just kept thinking about the children at the border, and how his DACA order caused that, and how he refused to visit the border and see what his policies had wrought…he wouldn’t even go and visit them, he refused to come and got a pass from the press on that.”
The major underlying issue, from LIBRE’s view, is how Obama’s executive orders undermine the rule of law. “Part of what makes America great isn’t just the opportunity, but where the opportunity comes from — the rule of law and our Constitution…[Obama’s plan] seems really counter-intuitive to me,” said Campos-Duffy. “It risks destroying what makes this country great and why they want to come here.”
“We want to remind conservatives that it’s important to stick to the facts, stick the Constitution, and remind [Hispanics] what they really wanted,” said Campos-Duffy, who emphasized that “no one knows better than Hispanics what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t have the rule of law.”
“I am very empathetic [to the immigrants’ positions]. I’m the granddaughter of immigrants and I know why they want to come here…I get it, I thank God my grandparents decided to come here from Mexico” she said, concluding that it was “important that we don’t undermine why they want to come…if we undermine the Constitution, we’re undermining the very reason why people want to come to this country.”
Breitbart Texas also interviewed Samuel Rosado, a Puerto Rican attorney and former executive director of the Republican Hispanic Assembly of New Jersey. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but Rosado is still deeply concerned about immigration issues and has volunteered with LIBRE to be a part of the debate. In an op-ed for National Review, Rosado wrote that the excuse the President gave for moving forward with executive action — lack of progress by Congress on an immigration bill — was due to the “Gang of Eight” Senate bill focusing on the wrong issue, a pathway to citizenship. As Rosado wrote:
“According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Latinos believe that relief from deportation and being able to work legally are more important than having a pathway to citizenship. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of legal Mexican immigrants have not taken the steps to become citizens. (Mexicans constitute the largest group of legal permanent residents of the United States, as well as accounting for more than half of illegal immigrants.) Taken together, the surveys suggest that taking citizenship eligibility off the table would not have turned off Latino support for a reform bill, and doing so would perhaps have garnered increased GOP support for the legislation, or reform in general…
“But that’s not what the Democrats want. They have been using immigration reform as a political football with Latinos for years, and wholeheartedly rejected the idea of taking citizenship off the table.”
“Citizenship is not nearly as high of a priority,” Rosado told Breitbart Texas. “Someone needs to take citizenship off the table, it’s clear that one of the big sticklers in the Senate bill was the pathway to citizenship, it’s the issue that gets Republicans hung up.” Rosado thought that if that issue had been removed from the bill, it might have gotten enough Republicans off the fence and “at least provide an avenue for reform,” but the Democrats would not relent.
Rosado also shared LIBRE’s concerns about the uncertainty of Obama’s executive orders, saying that it was “leveraging immigrants‘ personal security and safety, to retain their family ties, and holding them hostage.” The President and the Democrats are “favoring electoral victory over people’s well being,” said Rosado, and “not really providing people with any sense of security.”
Obama’s unilateral action has also “destroyed the political environment,” said Rosado, leaving “little hope” of progress now for lasting reforms. The Republicans will be “far more entrenched than they were before,” and even moderate Republicans are now unwilling to consider supporting reforms.
Rosado had specific criticisms related to the still-unresolved labor problems under Obama’s plan, saying that part of the reason the system is not working right now is because it is not set up to be responsive to labor needs, and granting work visas under the authority granted under DACA was “legally questionable.” Deferring deportation is not the same as granting legal status, said Rosado, noting that even the U.S. Customs website shows that children under DACA still do not have an official legal status. “How is this able to work?” asked Rosado, saying that he was “very, very skeptical.”
As an attorney, Rosado also questioned Obama’s claim that “prosecutorial discretion” supported his move to defer deportation for millions of illegal immigrants, saying that legal doctrine was designed to allow prosecutors the freedom to focus their resources on the most important cases in the interest of justice, but the effect of Obama’s plan was to “place whole categories to ignore the law.”
Rosado’s biggest critique of Obama’s plan was its failure to reform the legal immigration process. Rosado called the current process “asinine,” with the years-long wait and expensive administrative and legal fees that people must endure to get through the system. “I get it, the system is broken, I agree…but if [Obama is] willing to be serious about fixing a broken system he needs to start talking about the struggle it takes” for people to legally immigrate here, especially if they don’t have an employer to sponsor them.
Texas Attorney General and Governor-elect Greg Abbott is preparing to file suit next month against the Obama administration to block the President’s executive orders, and Attorney General-elect Ken Paxton has vowed to continue to support the litigation after he takes over the office in January, as Breitbart Texas has reported.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker