If and when Obama announces his executive actions to ease deportations, Republicans are likely to portray it as a wholesale shredding of the Constitution done for no other reason than to reward a base constituency — Latinos.
Which raises a question: Is it possible that Democrats could build some kind of coalition behind the coming executive action that includes GOP-aligned constituencies — agricultural interests, business, evangelicals — who have long pushed Republicans to adopt broader reform?
It’s far fetched idea, but some Dems are beginning to think about whether there are ways to broaden out Obama’s coming executive action — not in terms of the number who would be impacted by easing deportations, but more in terms of administrative reforms that could address some of these groups’ problems. Some of the constituencies themselves are quietly debating whether to ask for such reforms as part of Obama’s action, according to several people involved in these discussions.
Dem Rep. Joe Garcia of Florida, a key player on immigration, is circulating a memo among Dems arguing that the White House could take several actions that could appeal to such groups. Among them would be recapturing and re-issuing old work visas that have gone unused for various bureaucratic reasons — something that tech interests have wanted. Another is granting employment authorization for spouses of foreign nationals — something that might appeal to business. A third is giving more work flexibility to students, something educational institutions might like.
One lobbyist for major growers tells me agricultural interests — who have long wanted comprehensive reform because of a shortage in workers — are quietly debating whether they should ask for such reforms. He notes that one thing they might want is some kind of executive actions that would “reduce attrition of our current workforce. Chasing criminals out instead of farm workers would be helpful.” The lobbyist adds that you could conceivably see growers support broader executive action if their concerns were addressed.
The idea would be partly about appealing to interests within the districts of individual lawmakers — some of them Republicans attacking Obama for acting alone.
“There is no way you can have an agricultural interest in your district and not know our broken system is a problem,” said Garcia, who stressed his number one priority is comprehensive immigration reform. “There is no way you can have a university or a high tech or foreign business in your district and not know it is a problem. These constituencies might be grateful.”
Of course, these interests have long pushed GOP lawmakers for reform and they have simply shrugged. Also, this effort may not get anywhere, because it would put these groups in a delicate spot. On the one hand, while Republicans have essentially stiff-armed them by not supporting legislative reform, they are reluctant to support any Obama executive action because they don’t want to alienate Republicans they might want to work with in the future.
“House Republicans chose not to deliver for these constituencies, and they could now be helped by the president,” one operative for tech interests tells me. “But they’d be seen as working with the administration. People are worried about picking sides in this town.”
So we very well may see nothing happen. But advocates and Democrats like the idea, because they think it could potentially ease the political downsides of any Obama executive actions, contrasting support for it from pragmatic GOP-aligned constituencies with ideologically charged up Republicans (who have failed to act to fix the immigration system at all) angrily castigating Obama efforts to address the broken system as lawlessness.
“It’s a lot harder for Republicans to yell about Obama’s so-called ‘lawlessness’ if his executive actions on immigration enjoy the public support of evangelicals as well as agricultural, business and tech interests,” Frank Sharry of America’s Voice tells me. Far fetched, perhaps, but worth thinking about.