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Editorial: Congress must act on immigration

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | FEBRUARY 18, 2015 5:00 AM

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In the border town of Brownsville, Texas, federal Judge Andrew Hanen has suspended deportation relief for immigrants looking to become citizens through President Obama’s recent executive order.

Hanen ruled in favor of the 26 states that filed suit to block the order. With an estimated 4.7 million illegal immigrants in the United States eligible for possible citizenship, the president’s action seems like a huge step to take. The question is, did the Obama administration really believe that the executive order would hold up in court?

As a power play, the executive order makes sense. It has placed much-needed immigration reform on Congress’ mind. The action of the order forces a reaction from Congress, and action in the legislative branch can be beneficial. The order may also be an attempt to attract the Latino vote for the Democratic Party in the 2016 election.

Congressional Republicans have moved to block the executive order in a fairly bizarre way. They are holding the Department of Homeland Security hostage in budget negotiations, threatening to starve it of funding if the immigration order isn’t repealed. Using the budget to advance political interests isn’t anything new. What’s bizarre is the Republicans’ choice of department — Republicans are champions of national security and security expenditure. The department that handles national security is now at the end of the sword. It’s a curious end to be found at when considering the usual rhetoric from the GOP.

With such an important budget battle raging, expect the executive order to be delayed until the issue in Congress is resolved. Both sides appear staunch and prepared to fight it out. At least something is happening. When a subject is debated in Congress, communication is the weaponry. Greater communication and scrutiny in the political system of the U.S. government can only be a good thing.

What the executive order has revealed is a new power dynamic the Obama administration can take advantage of. Without re-election as a possibility, Obama may resolve issues far to the left of where his adversaries will let them stay. In the process, we may end up with a centered, thoroughly reviewed and fought for solution.

As unfortunate as it is that the President must play the role of the cattle prod to Congress, the role is not a new one. What we can’t let ourselves forget amid this debate, however, are the people who will be affected by whatever ruling prevails. Human beings are the roots of this debate. They may be illegal immigrants, but a life of fear and desperation is not what anyone wants to see these people experience. Whether you want immigrants in or out, this issue has to find resolution.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board feels it is encouraging to see Congress and the political system in motion, even if it is battling itself. Whether the executive order surpassed the president’s power has yet to be determined, but in the meantime, constructive debate is the best we can hope for. We cannot forget the reason immigration reform is necessary while embroiled in politics, however.

Lives will be changed, no matter what the outcome. Landing on a solution soon is vital.


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