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“It’s Funny How That Happens”: GOP Discovers The Virtue Of Unilateral Presidential Action

With less than a week before Congress leaves town for a month-long break, legislative prospects appear bleak. President Obama called weeks ago for action on the border crisis, but there’s now very little hope that lawmakers will get anything done.

Yesterday, as msnbc’s Jane Timm reported, House Speaker John Boehner gave the White House an ultimatum: accept changes to the Bush/Cheney-era human-trafficking law that allows immigrants from non-contiguous countries to seek asylum in the U.S., or House Republicans will refuse to pass a bill.

It’s reached the point at which the same GOP lawmakers who’ve condemned the president for trying to work around Congress are now urging the president to circumvent Congress.

Even as Congress jousts over a legislative response to the influx of child migrants from Central America, [a group of Texas Republican lawmakers] contend the president can take unilateral steps to end the crisis immediately. “You have the authority to stop the surge of illegal entries by immigrant minors today,” the Republicans wrote Thursday in a letter to Obama. […]

The recommendations include empowering local law enforcement agencies to prosecute federal immigration laws; cracking down on immigration fraud; speeding up deportations of the new arrivals; and ending the administration’s deferred action program, which allows some illegal immigrants brought to the country as children to remain and work without fear of deportation.

Apparently, some GOP lawmakers believe unilateral White House actions are evidence of a tyrannical dictatorship, unless Obama is acting unilaterally on an issue they care about, in which case they’re all for executive authority.

It’s funny how that happens.

There is, however, a related question that’s gone largely overlooked lately: if House Republicans support a far-right proposal that deploys the National Guard and changes the 2008 human-trafficking law, why don’t they just pass one? After all, the GOP is in the majority in the House and if they want to approve a conservative plan, they can, right?

Well, it’s not quite that simple. In theory, sure, House Republicans can pass anything they please, but in this case, that’s not possible. As Greg Sargent reported this week, far-right lawmakers are pushing to make sure the House approves literally nothing on this issue, in part because they don’t want to address the problem at all and in part because if the lower chamber does pass a bill, it might lead to a compromise with the Senate,

And as we know, Republicans really won’t tolerate compromises.

It’s led to a bizarre scenario: Boehner is whining that Obama isn’t doing enough to push House Democrats to support a Republican bill. Indeed, if House Republicans do absolutely nothing, after complaining for months about the need for action, the Speaker will say it’s the president’s fault for not telling Dems to vote the way Republicans want them to.

No, seriously, that’s the argument. Boehner once again can’t round up Republican votes for a Republican bill, so he’s convinced himself that Obama’s to blame.

It’s also why the very same GOP officials who claim to hate unilateral presidential action have suddenly discovered the virtues of Obama making policy moves irrespective of Congress.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 25, 2014

July 28, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rick Perry’s Operation Strong Safety”: Creating A Talking Point For The Campaign Trail, Not Searching For A Practical Solution

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) recently appeared on Fox News, stressing his support for deploying National Guard troops to address the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border. Brit Hume asked the governor to explain what the Guard would actually do. Perry struggled to explain.

Hume reminded Perry, “[I]f these children who’ve undergone these harrowing journeys, to escape the most desperate conditions in their home countries, have gotten this far, are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?”

At this point, Perry changed the subject.

But that was last week. This week, the Republican governor and likely presidential candidate is moving forward with his idea, whether he can explain its merits or not.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Monday requested the immediate deployment of as many as 1,000 service members to assist with security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The soldiers, from both the Texas National Guard and State Guard, will mobilize throughout the next 30 days to carry out “Operation Strong Safety” along the border region.

“I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault,” Perry said Monday during a press conference.

First, there’s very little to suggest Texans are “under assault.” Second, “Operation Strong Safety” is an unintentionally amusing phrase. As Paul Waldman joked, “ ‘Operation Strong Safety’? Why not just go ahead and call it Operation America Macho TestosteReagan?”

But even putting that aside, at its core, the most meaningful concern here is that Perry’s solution doesn’t match the problem.

The obvious question in response to the announcement from the governor’s office is simple: what, exactly, does Perry expect the Guard to do?

Part of the rationale, he said yesterday, was to deter others from entering the United States illegally. Again, this is predicated on a mistaken assumption about the nature of the crisis itself. These unaccompanied children are not sneaking into the country – on the contrary, they’re walking up to law-enforcement officials and gladly turning themselves in.

There is no deterrent effect in having more law-enforcement personnel because the kids aren’t afraid of getting caught. They fully expect to be taken into custody; they want to be taken into custody. Does Perry not understand these details? If not, why not?

What’s more, Greg Sargent recently talked to the head of the National Guard under the Bush/Cheney administration, who offered a valuable perspective.

[I]n an interview today, the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush said he had not yet heard a clear rationale for sending in the Guard and suggested it might not be the appropriate response to the problems at the core of the current crisis, though he did say he could envision the Guard playing some sort of part in a broader solution.

“Until mission requirements are clearly defined, it can’t be determined whether this is an appropriate use of the Guard in this particular case,” H. Steven Blum, who was the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2009 and has been a career military man for decades, told me. “There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you’re talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I’m not so sure that what we’re dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice.”

That still seems to be an exceedingly polite way of saying, “Republican demands don’t seem to make any sense.”

Of course, it’s possible Perry’s decision is less about making sense and more about presidential posturing in advance of a national campaign. Immigration was an albatross for the Texas governor in 2012 – remember the “have a heart” problem? – and the Republican is no doubt eager to chart a different course in advance of 2016. Dispatching the National Guard, in this sense, is about looking “tough” and creating a talking point for the campaign trail, not searching for a practical solution.

It led Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) to say in a statement, “Once again, Texas taxpayers are being forced to pay for Governor Perry’s grandiose political ambitions. It is a costly misuse of our highly skilled National Guard to demand its service as a mere referral agent for children seeking refuge from abuse. Doing its job effectively, our Border Patrol does not need interference from either Governor Perry or vigilantes. We deserve Texas tough, but today we get only Texas Governor weak – weak on any bipartisan solutions, weak on any meaningful action.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 22, 2014

July 23, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis, Rick Perry | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Who Are We, Anyway?”: A Moral Issue Of How We Choose To Define Ourselves As A Country

Something extraordinary is happening at our southern border. Thousands of children, most unaccompanied by adult relatives, are crossing from Mexico and immediately turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. They come principally from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

What must be going on in those countries that impels their most precious legacy, their children, to make such a journey? What are we, as a nation, going to do about it?

Reports from Central America center on two issues: poverty and gang violence. Poverty in that region is not new, nor has it ever been the stimulus for a mass migration of children. Gang violence has increased, driven in part by the trade in illegal drugs and perhaps by some success in Mexico in confronting drug gangs.

The more important question is what we’re going to do about it? Texas Governor Perry advocates a military response, perhaps by the National Guard. What exactly does he anticipate that the National Guard would do? Are they supposed to shoot at children as they cross a bridge or a river? Doesn’t sound right to me.

The Administration’s response to the problem is financial and legal. Appropriate 3.7 billion dollars to house these children until their cases can be heard by a (hopefully more efficient) adjudication process to determine whether each child is legitimately a refugee. But there aren’t lawyers to represent most of these children, so the legal process is likely to be a farce.

Some in Congress want to change the applicable laws to make it easier to expel these children without a legal process. I suppose such a course might relieve the government of some costs, but does such a policy square with our values?

The arrival of large numbers of children on our doorstep is not a physical menace to us. Nor is it an unsustainable financial burden. It is not a legal or bureaucratic matter either. Instead, it is a moral issue of how we choose to define ourselves as a country.

We need to move these children out of mass holding pens and into homes of people who will care for them and raise them. Then we can let the legal process grind away.

 

By: Joseph B. Kadane, Leonard J. Savage University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences, Emeritus, at Carnegie Mellon University; The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Immigration Reform, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Bigoted Republican Two-Step”: The GOP’s Ridiculous Executive-Authority Hypocrisy

Speaker of the House John Boehner wants to sue President Obama. Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wants to impeach President Obama. And Republicans across the board are in a froth over the president’s allegedly aggressive use of executive authority.

And yet, there are some issues that have so discombobulated Republicans that they are turning their lonely eyes to Obama for answers: Namely, the influx of Central American child migrants on America’s southern border. Faced with the unappealing prospect of using their own congressional power of the purse to solve the problem, Republicans are reacquainting themselves with the allure of executive power.

The current border crisis is the result of Obama following a law signed in 2008 by President George W. Bush and designed to save children from human trafficking. The law created different rules for children hailing from nations contiguous to America — Mexico and Canada — and children from elsewhere. For children coming from the two contiguous nations, Border Patrol agents can use their discretion to quickly send them home to their families. But since repatriation is more logistically complicated for children coming from farther away, the law requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide housing and care as well as the guidance to seek legal counsel, which generally puts them on a path for a formal judicial review.

Speaker Boehner has now proposed changing that law, saying last week, “I think we all agree that the non-contiguous countries, that now we’re required to hold those people, I think clearly, we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico.” But to apply the language we have with Mexico to Central American child migrants, you’d have to empower Obama’s Border Patrol agents — and effectively, Obama — to decide if those children must go back.

While Boehner wants to pass new legislation expanding Obama’s executive power, other Republicans just want Obama to assert his Oval Office authority without action by Congress. On Fox News Sunday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry repeatedly shrugged off the stipulations of the 2008 law and suggested Obama solve the problem on his own by deploying the National Guard to block entry at the border. Fox’s Brit Hume incredulously responded, “Are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?”

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers said on Meet The Press that Obama “has tools in his toolbox that he can use immediately to stop this,” citing Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s interpretation of the 2008 law which she co-authored. What Rogers chose not to highlight on national television is that Feinstein says Obama has the power to modify how the law is being implemented by directing the Department of Homeland Security to write new regulations — exactly the type of action that has prompted all the Republican talk of lawsuits and impeachment on other issues.

This may seem like your standard-issue Washington hypocrisy: Shake your fist against presidential power when you don’t like what the president is doing, and then pound your fist to demand presidential action to shift focus away from your reluctance to take any responsibility for governing the country.

But the Republican two-step is about more than hypocrisy. Their sudden renewed attraction to executive power lays bare how empty their excuses are for burying comprehensive immigration reform.

If Republicans really believe Obama is too slippery to trust with any legal directives to “secure the border,” they would be pushing for laws that tie his hands, such as mandatory deportations without judicial review and mandatory increases of National Guard or Border Patrol troops on the border.

They’re not, because deep down Republicans know their talking points about a lawless, trustless president are bunk. And the only thing stopping Republicans from passing comprehensive immigration reform is the fear of losing votes from anti-immigrant bigots. Any other excuse has been rendered inoperative.

 

By: Bill Scher, The Week, July 16, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Executive Orders, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right Problem, The Wrong Solution”: GOP Policymakers May Not Have Thought This One Through

Almost immediately after President Obama unveiled his plan to resolve the border crisis, congressional Republicans balked. There were, House Speaker John Boehner complained, no provisions in the plan about sending National Guard troops to the border.

A week later, the president was in Texas, where he met with a variety of state officials, including Gov. Rick Perry (R). The Republican governor emphasized one point above all others: he wants Obama to deploy National Guard troops to the border.

GOP policymakers may not have thought this one through. In fact, Greg Sargent talked to the head of the National Guard under the Bush/Cheney administration, who offered a valuable perspective.

[I]n an interview today, the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush said he had not yet heard a clear rationale for sending in the Guard and suggested it might not be the appropriate response to the problems at the core of the current crisis, though he did say he could envision the Guard playing some sort of part in a broader solution.

“Until mission requirements are clearly defined, it can’t be determined whether this is an appropriate use of the Guard in this particular case,” H. Steven Blum, who was the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2009 and has been a career military man for decades, told me. “There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you’re talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I’m not so sure that what we’re dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice.”

That seems to be an exceedingly polite way of saying, “Republican demands don’t seem to make any sense.”

Some of this seems to be the result of GOP confusion about the nature of the story itself. Many Republicans seem to believe this is a border-security crisis, which the National Guard can help address directly.

But that’s not consistent with the facts on the ground.

In many instances, unaccompanied children are simply turning themselves in once they find border patrol agents. That’s not a border-security crisis; that’s largely the opposite.

Indeed, Fox News’ Brit Hume, hardly a progressive media voice, asked Perry to explain over the weekend what the National Guard would actually do if deployed to the border. The Texas governor struggled to explain his own position, saying only that Guard troops would send a “message that gets sent back very quickly to Central America.”

Hume reminded Perry “[I]f these children who’ve undergone these harrowing journeys, to escape the most desperate conditions in their home countries, have gotten this far, are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?”

At this point, Perry changed the subject.

This is not to just pick on the Texas governor; Republican confusion about the border seems fairly common. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week, “Let’s remember, this administration went around for years saying the border has never been more secure than it is now. I think that’s been exposed as a fallacy over the last three weeks.”

But again, this is plainly at odds with reality. It’s not a “fallacy”; the Obama administration really has strengthened border security to new heights in recent years. The humanitarian crisis doesn’t undermine this fact at all. For Rubio to make such a comment suggests he doesn’t fully understand the underlying challenge.

If it seems like policymakers are having a debate in which two sides are talking past each other, it’s because that’s largely what’s happening. The GOP wants Guard troops, but they’re not sure why, and they’re convinced there’s a border-security crisis, which doesn’t really exist.

For his part, Obama has said he’s willing to deploy the National Guard, basically to make Republicans feel better in the short term, if it’s part of a larger response to the crisis. At least for now, GOP leaders have said this isn’t good enough.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 16, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Immigrants | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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