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Throwing Down The Gauntlet On Immigration

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Perhaps President Barack Obama has finally grown some you know what. Or maybe it's the fact that he does not have to face the voters ever again that has lent a kind of "devil-may-care" sense of urgency to his deliberations as the looks to carve out a progressive and historic legacy. Then again, he might just have had it with a squabbling, brattish, obstructionist House Republican Congress and the political antics of its most extreme sections and elements. Whatever it is the man came out swinging in prime time as he took to the airwaves to announce his latest Executive Order on immigration.

It was the culmination of a long series of public statements, stated intentions and veiled threats -- not to mention frustration - which the president expressed on the issue since 2008. And he made no bones about his intention to act alone; unilaterally it needs be, if Republicans did not move on comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama made good on his promise in the face of intense vitriolic criticisms and threats from Republicans.

The thing is that for all the new screaming and hair-pulling by Republicans and charges about the imperial presidency, "king or emperor Obama," overstepping his constitutional authority, the real reason for the foot-dragging on immigration reform is all about the Latino vote. The Republican Party knows that Latinos, Black and other minorities identify more readily as Democrats and immigrants as a whole tend flood the ranks of the Democratic Party. Underlining the Republican outrage is the fear of the "browning of America."

The executive order that would impact the lives of about 5 million people is about President Obama making good on a process that he started on June 15, 2012 when he again used such an order to bring relief to so-called "Dreamers" under the DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Back then Republicans again went off the deep end, screamed bloody murder, and tossed around impeachment language and how they would get back at an "out of control" president.

But absolutely nothing happened and for all the Chicken Liken "the sky is falling" doomsday prognoses and flameout rhetoric, some of it, like now, downright insulting and ignorant, the nation is better off today for his action. Remember, in June 2013 the president felt that he had a deal with the GOP and that passage of some kind of immigration law was just a matter of weeks or months away.

From Speaker Boehner on down to Fox 5 pundits the issue of immigration was on the front burner. Everyone, it seemed, had some opinion or the other, mostly bashing the president. Ultimately, the GOP came back and said that they could not pass the Senate immigration bill, imperfect though it was, and that they preferred to do a piecemeal bill, dealing with individual bits and pieces of the bill, instead of an omnibus immigration reform bill.

"Go ahead. As long as it gets done. I don't care what it looks like," President Obama said in response to the Republicans new goal post moving approach to immigration.

But nothing got done and in between the recent Executive Order -- 500 days ago -- the president continued to push, cajole and warn that if Republicans did not act soon he would go it alone. Then in 2014 Speaker Boehner, months before the mid-term elections, finally told the president that he was not going to bring the bill to the House floor and that it was dead for the 2014 session. At that time there was enough votes to pass the bill with a simple up and down procedural vote.

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But the speaker, fearing the wrath of the extreme Right Wing of his party, led by xenophobic members of the Tea Party, exhibited the cowardice that he's now come to be associated with and which has made him perhaps the most weak-kneed individual ever to hold that office in modern times. By then the president had bent backwards spending unprecedented sums of money to "seal the border," and deport the most number of people of any U.S. president in history -- combined. He also held his nose on some of the most odious aspects of Republican demands in order to get movement, any movement, on immigration.

Still, nothing worked. The well orchestrated and planned obstructionism in both houses by Republicans high on bigotry, xenophobia and sheer mean-spiritedness reached new highs this summer when thousands of children flocked to the Texas borders fleeing murder, rape and mayhem in Honduras and Guatemala. Unwilling to even take up comprehensive immigration reform the Republicans seized on this to blame the president hilariously accusing him of encouraging the fleeing children to come here by statements he made when they were about 5 years old (and younger) and unable to speak or understand a word of English.

Lost in the inflammatory rhetoric and "blame Obama for everything" was the fact that 40% of all undocumented immigrants in the country today came here legally through international airports like JFK and LAX. And for all the carping and hollering, threats and foaming- mouth rhetoric, Republicans are yet to put forward a bill that addresses comprehensive immigration. In 2015 they will have an opportunity to do so -- again. We shall see.

But a party with a morbid hatred of America's first Black president coming off of a mid-term electoral win is in no mood to tolerate a president taking unilateral action on so sensitive an issue. So with blood in their eyes and lengths of political rope in their pockets they are now vowing to take the war, a new Armageddon of sorts, to the president. Some Republicans are even threatening to shut down the government; others are saying that they will refuse to fund anything that is linked to the president's immigration's executive order.

News Flash! To the GOP -- President Obama slapped you in the face with his gloves, threw down the gauntlet, and he's won the first round. I predict that there is more to come so saddle up for a bumpy ride for the next two years.

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But let's look at the hoopla over if President Obama is in his legal right to issue this executive order and exactly what they are. To understand what is an Executive Order and how they have been used by U.S. presidents in sometimes-controversial ways we must dig into history.

On February 19, 1942, two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. In this one-page decree, the president used his authority as the commander-in-chief to authorize the U.S. military to "exclude" 122,000 Japanese Americans -- more than half of them U.S. citizens -- from their homes and businesses and relocate them to isolated and desolate internment camps [source: Our Documents]. A month later, Congress passed Public Law 503, making it a federal offense to disobey the president's executive order.

Executive orders have been used by every American president since George Washington to lead the nation through times of war, to respond to natural disasters and economic crises, to encourage or discourage regulation by federal agencies, to promote civil rights, or in the case of the Japanese internment camps, to revoke civil rights. Executive orders can also be used by governors to direct state agencies, often in response to emergencies, but also to promote the governor's own regulatory and social policies.

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MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)

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