Last Friday, President Obama announced that he will halt deportation proceedings for some DREAM-eligible youth and allow them to apply for work authorization. This announcement was met with a mix of relief and optimism from those in the immigrant rights community. Predictably, the anti-immigrant crowd is in an uproar over the Administration’s new policy and responded with conspiracy theories, calls for Obama’s impeachment and accusations of treason.
Although providing relief to DREAM youth is a move supported by the majority of Americans, the anti-immigrant movement used the announcement as an opportunity to inflame its core base of far-right extremists.
National anti-immigrant groups, many of which have ties to white nationalism and anti-Semitism, responded swiftly and vehemently to the announcement. Dan Stein of the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) a group founded by white nationalist John Tanton stated, “This is a blatant abuse of executive power that ignores the will of Congress and the American people. The Obama administration is engaging in a shameless display of political pandering to satisfy a narrow slice of its party.”
Mark Krikorian, a noted Islamophobe and head of the nativist Center for Immigration Studies stated, “Any DREAM Act supporter who applauds this measure has forfeited any right to complain about future usurpation of the Constitution. Even backers of DREAM in Congress have a responsibility to deny funding to DHS to carry out this policy.”
NumbersUSA, the grassroots organizer of the anti-immigrant network stated, “Yes, the President has created one humdinger of a fraud machine now. And we thought that he couldn’t top ‘prosecutorial discretion.’ Ha!”
The anti-immigrant state groups had the most aggressive tone to their responses to the announcement. A spokesperson for the Georgia-based anti-immigrant group Dustin Inman Society called stated, “It is treason. The president of the United States swears an oath to enforce the laws of this country and he has not even done that. He has not even enforced the immigration laws we have on the books.”
The leader of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement called the policy change an “atrocity.”
The anti-immigrant coalition So-Cal Patriots sent around an email stating, “The ‘Commander in Chief’ has now fully crawled into bed with law-breakers and Mexican organized crime. The word “impeachment” is already being thrown around. The word ‘prison’ is probably more appropriate. This is an illegal, criminal act by a rogue, desperate dictator, period.”
The Minuteman Political Action Committee also attacked Obama stating, “It’s here, just like we knew it would be – Obama’s DREAM Act Executive Order. Taking a cue from the successful election tactics of France’s new SOCIALIST president, Barack Hussein Obama will STOP DEPORTING ALL ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS who entered this country at a young age, and it’s starting TODAY! “
Two of the major nativists in Congress, Rep. Steve King of Iowa and Lamar Smith of Texas both had strong words for Obama. King, who recently compared immigrants to dogs, said that he will sue the Obama Administration for taking this policy change. Lamar Smith, who frequently invites members of the national anti-immigrant groups to testify before Congress, stated, President Obama’s decision to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants is a breach of faith with the American people. It also blatantly ignores the rule of law that is the foundation of our democracy.”
The far-right’s rhetoric is a far cry from the response of Republican leadership. Romney indicated that while he didn’t agree with Obama’s timing, if elected he would seek comprehensive immigration reform and that it would include “long-term” solution for undocumented youth who came here as children.
The anti-immigrant reaction to Obama’s announcement amounted to little more than outlandish criticism of the President, but the policy change will surely spur anti-immigrant groups to intensify their efforts. The change is a big blow to their “attrition through enforcement” approach but certainly not a fatal one.