Obama's Immigration Move Is Smart Politics Too

This is going to be the contraception debate on steroids

Obama's Immigration Move Is Smart Politics Too
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Protesters hold a sign in front of the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Florida.
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It's hard to know what's more attractive about President Obama's decision today to suspend deportations and offer work permits to young, undocumented Americans – the policy or the politics.

Obama is using "prosecutorial discretion" to remove the threat of deportation for immigrants under 30 who were brought into this country illegally by their parents, and allowing them to obtain renewable two-year work permits.

This "stopgap" measure, as described by the president in a Rose Garden ceremony Friday, would implement administratively the primary goals of the DREAM Act, which has been logjammed in congress.

As a matter of policy, this is a banner day. The president is standing up for young people who are Americans in all but their paperwork. These are law abiding, productive non-citizens, many of whom have served in our military, who have no connection to the countries of their birth. Deporting them provides no discernible public benefit. 

But the politics are equally stunning. Latinos are the nation's fastest growing voter bloc, and the president's campaign manager, Jim Messina, told me he's "obsessed" with securing their support. Messina believes that if Obama can take north of 70 percent of the Latino vote — and recent polls show that goal is within reach — "it's going to be very difficult to beat the president."

Latino voters have been trending Democratic, primarily on the basis of how nasty the GOP has become on immigration issues since 2006. But Obama has underdelivered: He'd promised to secure comprehensive immigration reform in his first year. Needless to say that never happened. With today's initiative, however, Obama made a bold statement to this community: I'm on your side.

The politics are a lot like the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Most gay Americans have never and were never going to serve in the military. But ending that idiotic policy was of deeper importance to the gay community – it symbolized acceptance within the American family. The DREAM Act is of similar symbolic weight to the Latino community; it's a recognition that Latino immigrants are a valuable addition, not a threat, to the fabric of this country.

And the politics of this decision are only going to get better for Obama and the Democrats. The right-wing hate that was on display during the primary campaign, when Mitt Romney promised to veto the DREAM Act and embraced the architects of Arizona's racist immigration law, is going to come storming back to center stage.

You thought the president's decision to require employers to provide contraception unmasked the ugly side of the modern conservative movement? You ain't seen nothing yet.

Indeed, the president hadn't even finished his Rose Garden statement today before he was being heckled by a member of the right wing press, the Daily Caller's Neil Munro who spewed nativist invective at the president. 

You doubt the right wing is dumb enough to follow up the poiltically disastrous War on Women by launching a War on Hispanics?

Check out the picture Breitbart.com used to highlight today's announcement:

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