Putting aside the lack of fairness or morality in deporting a million minority immigrants, most of whom have no criminal record and are no threat to society, while making it more difficult than at any time in the past 20 years to get legal employment-based work visas and green cards, Obama's attempt to appeal to white anti-immigrant voters is incredibly stupid politics. He is trying to court a center on this issue that doesn't exist.
The Washington Post has run an article about the Justice Department's review of anti-immigrant legislation in a number of states for possible legal action to block these laws from taking effect. This has provoked an outburst of rage on the website of this generally liberal, pro-immigrant newspaper. So far, there have been over 2,000 comments.
Most of them, judging from the admittedly small sample I have read, mindlessly repeat the Big Lie that Obama is doing nothing to enforce the immigration laws and therefore is trying to stop the states from doing so. Deporting a million people and breaking up hundreds of thousands of families with American citizen members does not cut him any ice with this crowd. Some of the posted comments still repeat the racist canard that Obama is an illegal immigrant from (pick any country you want - Indonesia is popular these days).
But in his mad rush to appeal to people who will never vote for him, Obama is infuriating the very immigrant communities whom he is at the same time trying to help by reining in the racist impulses of the various state legislatures concerned. To mention just one example, as everyone knows, the federal government has sued Arizona and other states to stop them from demanding to see immigration papers at random. But the Department of Homeland Security is doing exactly that, for example on passenger trains between New York and Chicago.
Just last night, at a friend's home, I heard a story about a young college student from China, a lawful US permanent resident, who was almost pulled off a train between these two cities and detained by federal officers because had forgotten to bring his green card with him. Yes, I know, green card holders are required by law to carry their cards with them at all times. But do any of us, American citizens, legal immigrants or otherwise, want to live in a country where any of us can be stopped anywhere, any time, and asked that most un-American of all questions: Wo sind Ihre Papiere?
Perhaps just as much to the point, is stopping people on buses or trains and threatening to arrest them for not having the right papers, while going to court to stop the states from doing the same thing, a good way for the president to be re-elected? One might think that a graduate of one of the nation's top law schools and a former law professor would be able to come up with a more intelligent answer.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.