The story driving headlines over the past few months – especially in conservative circles – has been the ongoing crisis at the southern United States border.
Just to recap, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained illegally crossing the southern border, mostly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The vast majority of these illegal immigrant minors are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Some are calling the situation “a humanitarian crisis,” others say it is “a national security crisis,” and many acknowledge it is both.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has deployed the Texas National Guard to the border. But Washington, D.C. has failed to act. Gridlock in Congress and an Obama administration that has been essentially paralyzed by political considerations have both conspired to make urgent action by the federal government highly difficult.
Despite the inertia, Democrats and the president could see this crisis as – recalling the sentiment of a former Obama advisor – an opportunity. The administration could use the border situation to push its immigration vision.
Throughout the second term of his presidency, Barack Obama has vowed to bypass Congress when possible to get things done. In some cases he’s tested the bounds of his executive authority leading to the U.S. Supreme Court smacking him down in a recent decision dealing with his 2012 National Labor Relations Board recess appointments.
Obama’s latest effort to go around Congress could find him using this border crisis to impose his own custom-made immigration reform on the country.
Initially, some Democrats – and even a few Republicans – hoped that the crisis might force the Congress as a whole to act on immigration reform. But with Congress about to adjourn for the August recess, that likelihood is dwindling.
With Congress out of town in August and the crisis potentially still ongoing, Obama may use the situation to act. But his actions are expected to go well beyond handling just the estimated 57,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America.
In June 2012, Obama signed an executive order that shielded certain young illegal immigrants from deportation, calling it “the right thing to do, period.”
This time around, the president has hinted that between 5 and 6 million could be spared the chance of deportation under a similar action and it could be done under the guise of acting on this crisis.
Some of the more uncompromising members of the House congressional caucus have warned such a course could set impeachment proceedings into motion.
“From my standpoint, if the president [enacts amnesty], we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives,” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said in a radio interview last weekend. “That’s my position and that’s my prediction.”
For the Republicans to take on impeachment, warranted or not, it could be like Brer Rabbit tricking the fox into throwing him into the briar patch … That is, if Obama thinks he can benefit politically as some said Bill Clinton, ironically, benefited.
Enter Jeff Sessions.
Sessions has been a champion in the eyes of a lot of conservatives and has been unwavering on the issue of immigration. But he has done so in a less hysterical manner.
Sessions has relied on the economics of illegal and legal immigration to make his case, whether it is for cheaper low-skill or high-skill workers. He’s also been steadfast on how it would impact U.S. welfare and entitlement programs. And he has stuck with that same tactic in speaking out against any unilateral action Obama may take.
“The Congressional Budget Office reported it will bring down wages, and we already have an unprecedented decline in wages, a significant part of that decline in the last 30 years is the result of this very high level of immigration,” Sessions said in a radio interview last week. “If President Obama’s new executive amnesty, his pen amnesty were to occur – 6 million people would be given work authorization … and it would just increase unemployment.”
However, rather than let the usual political opportunist use Obama’s overreaches to rile up their constituents or raise their stock inside the conservative movement, the wise move would be for Republicans to look to Sessions to run point on whatever response – whether it be anything ranging from a symbolic Rand Paul-type filibuster to draw attention to this or the tactic of pushing for impeachment, even as articles of impeachment must originate in the House of Representatives.
Up until now, Sessions has been reluctant to take a role that would be considered by some of his colleagues to go beyond what has been established to be the norms of U.S. Senate decorum like his colleagues Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have. Instead, he has used time in committee and on the Senate floor to make his case – sometimes to an empty chamber only seen by those at odds times on CSPAN2.
But this is a different circumstance. This isn’t protesting bad legislation. Instead it’s protesting bad and perhaps unconstitutional policy. And that’s why it would be appropriate for Sessions, the go-to guy for views on what conservatives consider to be sound immigration policy, to step up and be the face of the opposition against an overreach. It would be better under his leadership rather than have another effort be marginalized due to the perception of blatant political opportunism.