First, a fact most of us, whichever side of the aisle, agree on: our immigration policy needs fixing. There are millions of people who have lived in this country for many years, including children who were born here, who need to have their situations resolved – meaning most need to be allowed to stay here (I only say “most” because I don’t know the specifics of each situation and there could be a few who shouldn’t be allowed to stay). We “just” need to fix the rules.
Second, immigration is a hot political issue, and has been for years. There isn’t just disagreement over the substantive details of how to fix it, there are political considerations. The major political consideration seems to be: who will control the Hispanic vote, trending as The Vote to Get, in the future. That consideration apparently contributed to President Obama putting off taking action on his own this year for fear of losing a few Senate seats. Democrats lost those seats anyway. I’m sure it also played a role on the Republican side, fear of losing seats in some areas, or, more likely, philosophical constituencies, where immigration is not popular.
Now, with a Republican Senate majority poised to enter the chamber, the president is saying, basically, you guys (well not these guys, because they haven't been in control before) haven’t taken action, so now I will. This after years of saying he does not have constitutional authority to act on his own. The GOP leaders on the Hill have warned the White House that issuing an executive order on immigration says to the Congress: screw you, I’m doing what I think is right even though I’m on record saying I don’t have the authority. The President also has said he can issue the order and then the Congress can pass a law, which would supersede his order, and he will (metaphorically) rip up his order immediately.
I’m sorry, it just seems they’re playing with fire – and the lives of millions of people – here. It’s been said a million times before, but this is no way to run a democracy. In a democracy, we don’t elect a King, we elect a president. In a democracy, we elect representatives to reflect the views of voters, not their own views all the time. We elect a president and a Congress to find ways to solve problems. It’s called a representative democracy. While we want to and need to know a candidate’s philosophy for governing when we vote for him or her, we don’t want them to represent us (at least I don’t) in a doctrinaire manner that doesn’t leave room for compromise; a way to move the ball down the field even if you can’t get everything you want this time.
If I were Obama, what would I do? He’s waited this long for immigration reform, what’s wrong with giving the Republican leadership what they’re asking for – a little room to try to make this Congress work better (or maybe work is the right way to say it) than the last. It's one way to send a message that he wants Washington to work, not stagnate. And, if the GOP does nothing, then he has every right to try to do things, within his powers.