It seems to be generally agreed that President Obama’s decision to order the Homeland Security Department not to prioritize the enforcement of immigration law, but instead to grant illegal immigrants under 30 years of age the right to stay and work in the United States provided they have no criminal record, is a political masterstroke. Tycoon Rupert Murdoch and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, on their Billionaires for Open Borders speaking tour, described it as “brilliant.” Republicans from Governor Mitt Romney on down have largely avoided talking about it. And opinion polls, at least initially, have been favorable, reflecting simple human sympathy for young people whose illegal status was chosen for them by their parents.
At the same time, the number of applicants, at between 1 and 2 million, is larger than forecast. Some will compete in the labor market with native-born Americans, including minority and low-paid workers, at a time of high unemployment. Others will compete for college admissions, some of them on favorable terms. Their amnesty — for that is what it is — will be an incentive to millions of potential illegal immigrants in Mexico and Central America to head north because it confers the right to live and work in the U.S. — rights they want far more than U.S. citizenship. And it was achieved by an exercise of executive authority that was transparently deceitful, on the face of it unconstitutional, and, if allowed to stand, amounting to a mandate for untrammeled presidential power. (A legal challenge is in the works.)