Stanley Renshon's blog

Defining Immigration Violations Away: The White House Contribution

By Stanley Renshon, September 17, 2013

At first glance the title of this entry may be puzzling, and supporters of the president would strong disagree with it. After all, hasn't the Obama administration deported "record" numbers of illegal aliens during his first term of office?

Yes, it has. The administration reports that about 1.5 million illegal aliens were deported during the president's first term. That averages out to about 375,000 per year. Read more...

Immigration Enforcement: A History of Neglect

By Stanley Renshon, September 4, 2013

If there's one thing that former Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) agree on, it is that the enforcement of our immigration laws have been (Secretary Napolitano), and still remain (Sen. Rubio), broken.

In 2007, former Secretary Napolitano wrote in the Washington Post that, "No one favors illegal immigration. But there are upwards of 12 million people illegally in this country — people who work, who have settled their families and who have raised their children here. For 20 years our country has done basically nothing to enforce the 1986 legislation against either the employers who hired illegal immigrants or those who crossed our borders illegally to work for them. Accordingly, our current system is, effectively, silent amnesty." (Emphasis added) Read more...

The Origins of Ambivalence Regarding Immigration Enforcement

By Stanley Renshon, September 3, 2013

It's understandable that the country's 11.5 million illegal aliens have mostly made their decisions to come here in violation of our immigration laws without considering the cumulative effect of those millions of decisions on country in which they want to live and work. They are focused on their own circumstances and how to improve them.

Americans however, also understandably, have a different focus.

An Unspoken Truth: It's the Immigration Enforcement System that Is Broken

By Stanley Renshon, August 30, 2013

The immigration policy of an moderate, democratic, relatively wealthy country like the United States that is the preferred destination of tens of millions of potential immigrants and the actual destination of over a million new legal immigrants every year is likely to be complex and therefore difficult.

Underlying all the issues and vocal debates about American immigration law are two fundamental facts: Read more...

An Unspoken Immigration Truth: What's NOT Broken

By Stanley Renshon, August 29, 2013

One of the most overused and hackneyed phases in the present immigration debate is: "The system is broken." The metaphor is meant to convey the immigration system is important, that its major elements are dysfunctional, and that therefore the system must be fixed. QED.

It follows from this logic that all the major elements must be fixed and this requires comprehensive reform, or so it is argued. Read more...

President Obama's Administrative Amnesties Have a Long History

By Stanley Renshon, August 27, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has warned those interested in immigration reform that if Congress does nothing, the president will be tempted to accomplish by executive action what he was not able to accomplish by signing the Senate's immigration legislation. As the senator put it, "I believe that this president will be tempted, will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, to issue an executive order as he did for the Dream Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen." Read more...

Presidential Discretion in Immigration Policy: Deja Vu?

By Stanley Renshon, August 26, 2013

The dilemma for real immigration reformers in Congress is that that the president and the executive branch do have some degree of constitutionally mandated discretion in enforcing immigration laws.

Exactly how much is a matter of debate.

Jeffrey Anderson writing in the Weekly Standard of the president's decision not to deport young illegal aliens characterized that initiative as "pure lawlessness". Read more...

Two Forms of Presidential Immigration Misconduct: Executive Action and Administrative Fiat

By Stanley Renshon, August 23, 2013

Immigration reformers in Congress are worried about a possible presidential Plan B that would bypass Congress altogether and simply change existing immigration law by executive action.

Could the president do this? He already has.

Is this a realistic worry? Yes.

The GOP's Immigration Reform Dilemma: Presidential Enforcement

By Stanley Renshon, August 22, 2013

The president and the House GOP are each caught in a bind. Although the two dilemmas spring from vastly different origins, they share a similarity. They both have to do with trust. Read more...

The President's Immigration Villains: Part 2

By Stanley Renshon, August 21, 2013

The president has a long and substantial rhetorical history of harshly singling out and criticizing individuals and groups that disagree with his policy preferences. And no group has been on the receiving end of more of his ire than Republicans.

On the GOP in general, he has said "Their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules." Read more...

The President's Immigration Villains: Part 1

By Stanley Renshon, August 20, 2013

Like many smart, verbally skilled political leaders, President Obama has a way with words. He is more measured than loquacious, and he is a master of conveying calm, thoughtful deliberation. That leads many people to misidentify him as a moderate or a pragmatist. After all, his calm delivery and measured cadence are the antithesis of how we expect radicals or revolutionaries to speak. Read more...

President Obama's Immigration Sophistry: Part 2

By Stanley Renshon, August 14, 2013

Sophistry (soph·ist·ry)
1: subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation.

President Obama is an artful communicator, but like some other smart, modern presidents (Bill Clinton comes to mind), not a particularly direct or truthful one. Read more...

President Obama's Immigration "Bipartisan" Sophistry: Part 1

By Stanley Renshon, August 13, 2013

Sophistry (soph·ist·ry)
1: subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation.

Supporters of the Senate's immigration bill, including the president, have a simple response to the idea that immigration reform would benefit from a more careful and thoughtful consideration than it was given in the Senate: Been there, done that.

The president says that he doesn't want the Senate's bill to get "bogged down in endless debate" and demands action because "We've been debating this a very long time." Read more...

The GOP's Immigration Leverage: The Power of Options

By Stanley Renshon, August 12, 2013

House Republicans are providing an important public service for Americans by breaking apart the Senate's massive immigration bill in order to better consider the basic elements of the nation's immigration policy puzzle. They are giving the public, and themselves, information and options.

Some ask: Why is this necessary? Haven't we been debating immigration for years? Read more...

The GOP's Immigration Leverage; No, Really!

By Stanley Renshon, August 9, 2013

The basic stance of many prominent members of the GOP establishment after the 2012 presidential election can be described as panic. The president's sufficiently successful effort to reenergize his base, including Hispanic voters, coupled with Mitt Romney's lackluster showing among that same group, plus instant but erroneous extrapolations of ethnic and racial population trends, led to almost hysterical worry that Republicans were in a demographic "death spiral" from which they could not recover. Read more...

Why President Obama Will Sign Any Reasonable Immigration Bill that Reaches His Desk

By Stanley Renshon, August 7, 2013

It is very clear that President Obama sees himself as a transforming leader, one who bends circumstances to his convictions and preferred goals. However his ability to validate his self-image by real legislative and policy accomplishments has been stymied by the domestic, political, and foreign policy choices he has made. Read more...

Aiming for Greatness: President Obama's Accomplishment Gap

By Stanley Renshon, August 7, 2013

President Obama is fast approaching the point at which the record of his aspirations in relation to his actual accomplishments will come into shaper focus, and the extravagant expectations that greeted his candidacy will face the harsh light of reality.

This would be difficult enough for any ambitious person; however, it is very likely intolerable for someone whose presidency and its legacy is meant to be an affirmation of his status as a "great president".

The last two words in quotes are President Obama's, not mine. Read more...

President Obama's Immigration Dilemma: Saving a Flailing Presidency

By Stanley Renshon, August 6, 2013

Every president has to confront how history will view him and his time in office. Reelection provides some solace and an advantageous starting position for historical assessment, but it is no guarantee. Just ask Richard Nixon.

Presidents need not be great historical figures in order to be considered successful. There are successful presidents that bend circumstances to achieve their goals and those who successfully adapt and navigate the political currents they face while putting their own stamp on the results.

Whichever of these two paths are most psychologically congenial, presidents have essentially three specific ways that they can be "successful" and establish a solid historical legacy. Read more...

Obama's Great Immigration Bluff

By Stanley Renshon, August 2, 2013

bluff (bluf)
v. bluffed, bluff·ing, bluffs
1. To mislead or deceive.
2. To impress, deter, or intimidate by a false display of confidence.
3. Games To try to mislead (opponents) in a card game by heavy betting on a poor hand or by little or no betting on a good one.

Does President Obama really want to sign an immigration bill? Or does he really not mind if the effort fails so that he will have what some believe will be a potent issue to use against Republicans in the 2014 midterm congressional elections? As Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) phrased it, "The question is, how much energy does the White House put in to actually getting a remedy? Or do they want to keep the issue for 2014?"

There's evidence for both positions, but ultimately there are very good psychological and political reasons to believe that only one is right. Read more...

Rep. Labrador Meets the Press: Round 2

By Stanley Renshon, August 1, 2013

"Meet the Press", hosted by David Gregory, is, as noted, a rather conventional news program. Yet, every once in a while, it results in a very clarifying set of exchanges.

One case in point was the following exchange between New York Times columnist David Brooks and Rep. Raul Labrador on the July 7 show: Read more...

Rep. Labrador Meets the Press: Round 1

By Stanley Renshon, July 30, 2013

"Meet the Press", hosted by David Gregory, is one of the nation's oldest and most respected Sunday news shows. Each week it invites noteworthy political leaders and opinion makers to deliver their views and discuss them with the host and in turn have them discussed by a panel of political commentators. Read more...

Rep. Raul Labrador and the Courage of Immigration Convictions

By Stanley Renshon, July 30, 2013

Republican Rep. Raul Labrador has represented Idaho's first congressional district since 2010 and was a member of that state's House of Representatives before that. In Congress he has become an important voice on immigration, and for good reason. He was born in Puerto Rico, raised by a single mother, made his way through Brigham Young University, and then the University of Washington Law School. Read more...

The GOP and Immigration: Having the Courage of Your Convictions

By Stanley Renshon, July 23, 2013

Elected political leaders often confuse support with popularity. They think that espousing views that correspond to the least common denominator of public understanding and opinion is the key to political success. And, regrettably it often is, at least in the short term. Read more...

The GOP and Immigration: Death by Pandering

By Stanley Renshon, July 20, 2013

Those who advise the GOP to "get right" with Hispanics by supporting the Senate's massive immigration bill never consider the downside of traducing principles in the hope of gaining votes. Perhaps it can be said of "death by pandering", as the Washington Post' Kathleen Parker suggests is the case with "principled martyrs," that, "[P]rincipled or not, you're still dead in the end."

But death by pandering strips you of both your integrity and your honor. Worse, it doesn't give you the opportunity to make your case and try to gain supporters for your perspective.

In essence, it is just giving up.

The GOP and Immigration
Dying for principle or benefiting from it?

By Stanley Renshon, July 19, 2013
Dying for principle or benefiting from it?

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker writes that if the GOP doesn't die a demographic death, it may just commit suicide by standing for its principles. Republicans, she writes, "seem to be adopting the self-immolation tactics of principled martyrs," and she continues, "Of course, principled or not, you're still dead in the end."

Maybe. But consider that the public has very little detailed information about the actual Senate bill and that when they learn that what they have been told or promised is not actually in it, their support drops. Or to quote a poll headline: "39 Percent Favor Reform Plan That Cuts Future Illegal Immigration by Just 50 Percent." Read more...

The GOP and Immigration
Principled suicide vs. death by pandering

By Stanley Renshon, July 18, 2013
Principled suicide vs. death by pandering

If you listen to supporters of the Gang of Eight's vast immigration bill, including many establishment Republicans, the GOP faces a dire choice: adapt demographically and support the bill or die.

Those who prefer that their party do neither have now been given an another choice, this time by Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker. They can commit principled suicide. Read more...

Immigration and the Death of the Republican Party
Reform's road to electoral oblivion

By Stanley Renshon, July 15, 2013
Reform's road to electoral oblivion

The conventional immigration narrative, favored by supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, is that the Republican Party is doomed to electoral oblivion if the House doesn't pass a bill that mirrors S.744, the Senate Gang of Eight's 1,200-page bill. Read more...

What's Wrong with Immigration Policy Conventional Wisdom

By Stanley Renshon, July 9, 2013

Many members of the GOP's senior leadership pushing for "comprehensive immigration reform" and their supporters in the Democratic Party agree: Because of America's changing demographic profile and the GOP's troubled relationship with the Hispanic community, it must embrace comprehensive immigration reform, or die as a major political party.

That conventional wisdom certainly does translate to a political existential threat, if it's true; but it's far from clear that it is. Read more...

Bipartisan Immigration Conventional Wisdom: Caveat Emptor

By Stanley Renshon, July 7, 2013

Since Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, the dominant narrative among substantial segments of the GOP's "elite", aided by their "friends" in the Democratic Party and their allies, has been Hispanic panic. Read more...

President Obama's Big Bang Theory of Hispanic Reelection Support: Part 2

By Stanley Renshon, July 1, 2013

Richard Neustadt's classic analysis Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan emphasized that presidents, for all their advisors and supporters, ultimately must rely on themselves to accomplish their policy purposes. He called this need self-help and every successful president has made use of it.

In Neustadt's analysis, self-help is used to further the president's major policy preferences, not the president's primarily personal and political self-interest. Where the latter begins and the former ends, however, is not always easy to discern. And that is especially the case for presidents like Mr. Obama, who consider themselves to be great historical figures. Read more...