Tomorrow Is the Big Immigration Day

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The Washington Post reports that on Thursday, President Barack Obama will roll out his executive action on immigration reform:

President Obama will announce Thursday that he will use his executive authority to expand temporary protections to millions of undocumented immigrants, according to several individuals who have been briefed on the decision. Obama will travel to Las Vegas on the heels of that announcement to rally support for his initiative on Friday.

Slate's John Dickerson looks at why Obama is acting now:

But what if the president could play hardball and still be lofty and optimistic? Why not give Republicans a handful of months to come up with their immigration plan and then, if they don’t meet the deadline, go ahead with the executive orders? There’s no real rush (or Obama would have ordered the overhaul before the election), and the election has actually changed the dynamic. (If the election didn’t change things, then why did Obama wait until it passed to act?) An argument can be made for delay on purely political grounds. It would look “reasonable” to the op-ed writers and pundits, and it would put pressure on Republicans to act—to actually wrestle with the details of the issue—and that would be messy as different GOP factions fought it out over specific legislative language. Chaos in Republican ranks benefits the president because GOP leaders would have to work to avoid appearing that they were unable to govern on an important issue of the day. That might make them partners on a larger immigration deal that could benefit more people and offer a big legacy item for the president, whereas if the president moves unilaterally they’ll never cooperate with the White House on immigration. Any deal with Obama after the executive orders would be seen by the conservative grass roots as a grand capitulation.

The president cannot delay, say his aides and allies, because he cannot disappoint his supporters in the Latino community again. There have been too many delays already. Deferring any longer would damage the political unity he’ll hope to draw on in his final two years, and it would hurt Democrats up for re-election in 2016, especially if the president backed down again. That’s why in an interview with Univision, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made his case for the president “going big” by referring to his own political situation. “I think the parents of people I know in Nevada deserve this.”

Plus, the president actually believes in the underlying policy and the value of protecting up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. Democrats believe that delay will only create calls for more delay and more inaction. By forcing the confrontation now, the president takes immediate action to help immigrant families and still puts political pressure on the GOP. Republican leaders now have to temper their reaction by reining in in their members calling for impeachment or another set of budget confrontations, perhaps even a government shutdown, which could backfire as the last one did. At the moment, the risk of a shutdown looks remote, but the challenge is larger than just avoiding a shutdown. Republicans also have to be smart about how they undo the president’s actions, making it an argument about presidential overreach and not an opportunity for them to be painted as inflexible on the issue.

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