In announcing a plan for executive action on immigration Thursday, President Barack Obama did something similar to every president since Dwight Eisenhower — including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. In fact, presidents have deferred the deportations of immigrants at least 39 times over the past 60 years, in orders that have affected as much as 40 percent of the undocumented immigrant population.
But to watch Republican commentary surrounding Obama’s announcement, one would have thought there was a constitutional apocalypse. Sen. Jeff Session (R-AL) warned that “the president is endangering our entire constitutional order.” House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said Obama’s “rogue” action “threatens to unravel our government’s system of checks.” And Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was ready to move forward with a three-step plan for all-out government obstruction and political retribution.
These weren’t even the most outrageous reactions to Obama’s announcement to take executive action on immigration. Here are some of the most offensive things lawmakers had to say:
Obama may be a criminal. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) didn’t “have the citation at the tip of his tongue,” but he nonetheless claimed Obama might be guilty of a felony for aiding or abetting a foreigner to enter the United States, according to Slate. Brooks made the claim early Thursday before Obama released the details of his plan, so Brooks said he couldn’t be sure. But he added that Obama might end up in jail. “At some point, you have to evaluate whether the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America,” he continued. “That has a five-year in-jail penalty associated with it.”
Obama’s action could provoke ethnic cleansing. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach stoked fears about ethnic cleansing in a radio interview discussing President Obama’s planned executive action earlier this week, posted by Right Wing Watch. When a caller worried that “when one culture or one race or one religion overwhelms another culture or race,” they “run them out or kill them,” Kobach responded by suggesting that Obama’s lawlessness could indeed lead to what he identified as ethnic cleansing. Kobach, who earned his anti-immigrant reputation as one of the architects of the notorious Arizona anti-immigrant law SB 1070 that was partly invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court, explained:
What protects us in America from any kind of ethnic cleansing is the rule of law, of course. And the rule of law used to be unassailable, used to be taken for granted in America. And now, of course, we have a President who disregards the law when it suits his interests. And, so, you know, while I normally would answer that by saying, ‘Steve, of course we have the rule of law, that could never happen in America,’ I wonder what could happen. I still don’t think it’s going to happen in America, but I have to admit, that things are, things are strange and they’re happening.
The executive order is intended to turn America socialist. Kobach had another gem in the week leading up to Obama’s order. During the same radio program, he warned that Obama’s real plan was to create “newly legalized voters” who would favor socialism. “The long term strategy of, first of all, replacing American voters with illegal aliens, recently legalized, who then become U.S. citizens,” Kobach said. “There is still a decided bias in favor of bigger government not smaller government. So maybe this strategy of replacing American voters with newly legalized aliens, if you look at it through an ethnic lens, … you’ve got a locked in vote for socialism,” TPM reported.
The executive action is offensive to blacks and Hispanics. Count on Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) to revive the anti-immigrant refrain that immigration reform hurts African Americans. In remarks to Fox News’ Sean Hannity after Obama’s national address Thursday night, Gohmert doubled down on this claim, saying that Obama’s action is “so offensive” to both African Americans and Hispanics “who have an enormously high unemployment rate.” He then inferred that the 4.9 million immigrants who are being granted deportation relief from Obama would take others’ jobs at a 1-to-1 ratio, saying, “that’s going to leave 5 million people out in the cold.”
In fact, many undocumented immigrants are already providing low-wage labor. And economists have repeatedly found that in addition to reform being a net positive for the American economy, immigrants have a small but positive effect on the wages and job prospects of low-wage American workers, because they tend to fill complementary jobs, and are more willing to move locations when labor demand shifts. Hispanics and African Americans also overwhelmingly support immigration reform.
Undocumented immigrants are illiterate and likely to commit widespread voter fraud. Even Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) immediately winced when he heard outgoing Tea Party darling Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) warn that Obama’s action will create illiterate immigrant voters. “The social cost will be profound on the U.S. taxpayer — millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language,” Bachmann told reporters the Wednesday before Obama’s address. And when the Washington Post asked Bachmann how she knew that, she said, “I’ve been down to the border.” She added that she was sure that those who aren’t citizens are likely to successfully commit widespread voter fraud. “Even though the president says they won’t be able to vote, we all know that many, in all likelihood, will vote. … People do vote without being a citizen. It’s a wink and a nod, we all know it’s going to happen.”