WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – President Barack Obama announced an executive order that would make almost 5 million undocumented immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally eligible for protection from deportation. During Thursday evening’s announcement, Obama stated that “our immigration system is broken and everyone knows it.”
The president explained that he is taking executive action on this issue because Congress has failed to pass comprehensive reform and with newly elected officials taking office soon the president said “we need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration.”
Since Obama has taken things into his own hands offending the GOP base, some experts warn that his actions could hinder Republicans in the next election.
“The Republicans are in a difficult position,” Dr. Jeffrey Hill, a professor and chair of the Political Science Department at Northeastern Illinois University, told CBSDC. “If they support immigration reform, then they will lose a large number of people in their base. But to win the presidency in 2016, they need to attract more Latino voters than they did in 2012. This will not happen if they are identified as opposing immigration reform.”
Hill added that there are only a few solutions to what Republicans can do to try and shift this situation in their favor.
“The solution is to convince people they oppose Obama’s executive order on constitutional grounds and not because they oppose the policy itself,” Hill said. “If they successfully convince people their stance is based on the Constitution, they can keep their base happy and they might still get that larger part of the Latino vote in two years. In other words, they need to do the exact opposite of what the Democrats need to do.”
Dr. Michael Smith, an associate professor of political science at Emporia State University, agreed with Hill about how Obama’s actions are going to affect Republicans.
“Obama’s executive action on immigration isn’t going to hurt Democrats chances in the 2016 election,” Smith told CBSDC. “It’s really interesting because politically it’s hurting Republicans. The numbers aren’t there to do a deal on immigration in the House. On a political front, he’s backing Republicans in a bad corner.”
Smith added that Democrats could spin this on Republicans in a few ways by saying that Republicans are trying to fight immigration reform, not executive privilege.
“Hostility towards immigrants is a really live issue with Republicans and that could be a divisive one,” Smith said. “Immigration in the U.S. will continue to be a live issue for a while.”
Hill shared that Congress can try to act against Obama’s executive action on immigration.
“If Congress does not like the way the president exercises his authority, they can pass a law limiting it,” Hill said. “This will be very difficult to do this year or even next year when the Republicans hold the majority in the Senate. The president still can use the veto to defeat the new law. To be sure, there are other tools Congress can use, but the main tool to control policy, legislation, will not be easy to use.”
Hill stated that if Obama is going to get support for his policy that he needed to explain exactly how he is going to accomplish immigration reform and what tools he will use to get the job done.
“In the current debate, people may be under the impression that executive orders are seldom used to make dramatic policy,” Hill said. “Many presidents have used executive orders to make policy. For example, George W Bush used an executive order to allow federal funds to go to faith based charities. Lyndon Johnson used executive orders to create affirmative action policies. These are just some of the more dramatic uses. There is nothing unusual about this.”
In predicting what candidates might campaign on during the 2016 election, Hill said that health care will definitely come up.
“The Republicans will highlight shortcomings in the health reform, while Democrats will point out the popular aspects of the law,” Hill shared. “The Obama administration has not done a good job explaining the law and had not been successful in getting credit for popular aspects of it. The Democratic candidates in 2016 need to do this. They cannot run away from it as many tried to in the 2014 election. I am sure candidates will try to make this an issue. I do not know if it will resonate with the voters.”
In addition to health care, Smith added that foreign policy will be another topic that candidates will try to use as a platform to run.
“Foreign policy is always one of the primary focuses during election years because voters fear getting bogged down in another war,” Smith said. “I think the president and Congress need to be concerned about that because people don’t want to get troops involved in another war with no exit strategy, especially if Americans start to get killed.”
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