During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama employed rhetoric we’ve come to expect about bipartisan cooperation. But — in what could be interpreted as acknowledgment of the Congressional habit of blocking or stalling policy on immigration, the farm bill and other measures — he was clear that he would go around them if forced.
“Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
To no one’s surprise, the president’s stated approach drew ire from Republican lawmakers and many on the far-Right.
Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, said on Twitter that “the [state of the union] would be stronger if the President worked with Congress, instead of threatening to work around them.” This echoed Heritage’s 2013 criticism that “the imperial president will act on his own.” Fox News, Roy Beck, CAPS, Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham and several others joined in this criticism on Twitter last night.
It should be noted, though, that the president didn’t explicitly say this new-found gumption would apply to immigration reform or the farm bill, which finally got House approval today after a two-year delay.
Most people hoping to hear something about either issue had low expectations, and he delivered accordingly. But, while Obama uttered only a measly 122 words on immigration out of 7,017 total, the anti-immigrant movement and Islamophobia movement more than made up for his relative silence in their real-time reactions on Twitter, official statements and blogs after the address.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, certainly took note of the president’s brevity.
“That’s it on immigration? What was that — three sentences? #SOTU,” he wrote on Twitter.
Krikorian was not at a loss for words. He elaborated this morning.
Roy Beck of Numbers USA added: “We had been told ahead of time that he would play nice with his immigration statement so as not to offend House Republicans who he is trying to win over. Still, I was a bit surprised — and I think encouraged — by his timidity.”
Here are some of the other highlights:
“Notice he didn’t say ‘If you work hard and play by the rules.” Changed the latter to “take responsibility.’ #amnesty” — Laura Ingraham via Twitter
“Comprehensive immigration reform … will heighten the competition for jobs between newly legalized immigrants and American workers struggling to find employment.” —Arnold Ahlert, FrontPage Magazine
“#Obama demands #amnesty. How about enforcing the laws on the books? If he won’t enforce the laws now, why would he enforce new laws? #tcot” — Tea Party Nation via Twitter
On Jobs and Wages:
“Obama’s plan – bring jobs back to the US and import foreign workers to take them #immigration #SOTU” — Federation for American Immigration Reform via Twitter
“His position on illegal immigration will undercut jobs for the American people and tend to get down wages. You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re going to be tough on illegal immigration or you aren’t and if you’re not tough on illegal immigration by legalizing or giving amnesty to illegals you’re going to bring down wages and you’re going to lose jobs to foreigners.” — Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
And a particular concern for jobs for black men:
“Obama’s #immigration plan will hurt young black men, not help them.” #SOTU #NoAmnesty — Federation for American Immigration Reform via Twitter
On Terrorism and the “War on Terror”:
“There are terrorists abroad but also at home, slipping thru our #immigration system #SOTU” — Federation for American Immigration Reform via Twitter
“Obama enabled Afghanistan’s mass release of jihadists who attacked our troops, but claims we are ‘more secure.’ #sotu #lies” — Michelle Malkin via Twitter
“Terrorists who target the U.S. … (have) grievances against the U.S. that stem from an overall Islamist worldview that the Obama Administration does not recognize as the core problem.” — Ryan Mauro via FrontPage Magazine
On the GOP (and the official response by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers):
“When will the GOP Estab admit that it is closer to Obama on immig than its own base? #insanity” — Laura Ingraham via Twitter
“With absolutely no offense to the Congresslady, who is obviously a very nice person, I would have rather heard Jeff Sessions.” — John Derbyshire via VDARE
It’s clear from the rapid-fire responses that show no signs of subsiding, the far-Right is heartened by the president’s limited words on immigration and are happy to fill that void with their own rhetoric. As the debate over reform continues, it is critical that those who brazenly push their nativist, anti-immigrant agenda be pushed aside to make room for those interested in achieving positive, meaningful solutions for us all.