EDITORIAL: President choosing wrong path on immigration

President Obama must be tone deaf. His threat to go it alone on comprehensive immigration reform — bypassing Congress if necessary — sounds like man who didn’t hear the nation’s loud and clear rejection of his policies Nov. 4.

Instead, he sounds like a president who’s determined to get his way — even if it condemns the country to two more years of gridlock.

House Speaker John Boehner correctly warned Nov. 6 that the president will “poison the well” for the new Congress if he takes executive action to address the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

“I’ve made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress,” Boehner told reporters at his first news conference after huge GOP gains in this week’s midterm elections.

The Republican speaker and the president are long-time political rivals. But on immigration, the two leaders have something in common — they agree it’s time to put something on the front burner at some point.

Except the president’s way is the wrong way. As Boehner puts it, if the president acts on his own, then “there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress.”

For his part, the president appears to be spoiling for fight, perhaps to recapture his lost mojo.

He said while it was his “profound preference” that lawmakers act to deal with problems in the immigration system, including the millions of people who are in the country illegally, he said he’s not going to wait on Congress. That means issuing executive actions.

But doing an end run around Congress on something as fundamental as immigration is a big mistake. This issue merits discussion and debate in the halls of Congress, not just inside the Oval Office.

Even members of the president’s own party seem to agree.

Prior to the midterms, Democratic candidates who were on the ballot asked the president to hold off on issuing executive orders on immigration.

They knew it would be unpopular among many of their constituents. They didn’t want to be punished because of the president’s unilateral action.

Boehner is right that America’s immigration process must be reformed. So is the president. But there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it.

The proper way is one that respects the Constitution and the separation of powers between the lawmaking branch of the federal government and its executive branch. It would be good to see the new, Republican-controlled Congress and the president start out on more achievable goals first— eliminating the medical device tax that’s part of the Affordable Care Act and pushing forward with the Keystone pipeline. Teeing off on immigration reform is the wrong move at the wrong time.

President Obama shouldn’t poison this well. During the next two years, he has to drink from it, too.

Updated: 
11/19/2014 - 1:21pm

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