Date: Dec 01, 2014
Magazine:
December 2014: Immigration Effort Top Story of 2014

I love an election when the pundits get it wrong.  While many speculated that it “looked likely” that Republicans would take control of the Senate, few foresaw the routing Democrats got on Nov. 4.  Almost everywhere across the nation the map turned redder, except of course in California.  For our industry, there were several positive outcomes.  Many of us (but not all) cheer the success Republicans had across the country because GOP lawmakers are generally stronger supporters of the needs of business.

The leaders of what will soon be a Republican-led Congress say they will work to strengthen the economy.  They need to do exactly that.  Look for them to act on tax reform and trade.  Corporate tax reform and passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are both good possibilities, and the president may work with them on these issues.  There may also be a deal to be had between the new Congress and the president on the building of Keystone Pipeline.  If attached to a budget bill, some think the president would not be so principally opposed that he would veto it.  But for the most part, conflict between the president and the Republican Congress is a certainty.  The 114th Congress will likely seek to put the brakes on the Environmental Protection Agency.  Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma will probably lead the committee charged with oversight of the EPA, and is expected to attack executive actions designed to further restrict the fossil fuels-based energy industry.  Whatever you may think of greenhouse gas emissions, alternative energy sources cannot yet supply the needs of the nation, and so the health of our economy remains reliant on oil, coal and natural gas.  It’s likely that President Obama’s final years in office will be spent in part defending his environmental agenda including his plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions at power plants by one-third.

As for immigration reform, with all due respect to the president, the speaker of the House and the new Senate majority leader, it’s well past time to build the bridge to compromise.  I refuse to believe it is impossible to reach a bipartisan legislative agreement on immigration reform.  If border security must be tackled in order to deal with other aspects of immigration reform, then tackle it!  The leaders of our government have always had the power to secure our borders, which, as commentator Michelle Malkin observed in a workshop at the Western Growers Annual Meeting, cannot be accomplished by one act of Congress; it is an ongoing effort that can never be seen as finished.  So get on with it and get on with real reforms that allow us to have a legal and stable workforce.

Interestingly, some conservative pundits are saying that Republicans can and should address immigration, even if President Barack Obama enacts changes administratively.  In fact, former Mississippi Gov. and Republican Party Chairman Haley Barbour (R), former Pennsylvania Gov. and Democrat Party Chairman Ed Rendell (D) and former Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) said executive action by the president could spur Congress to act faster, perhaps by convincing legislators of the wisdom of preempting the president.  Speaker Boehner has said many times he wants immigration reform, but in outlining their plans for the year in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, neither Mr. Boehner nor Mr. McConnell even mentioned immigration.

We know how difficult immigration is for Republican legislators, but they must confront the fundamental danger that flows from failing to act.  The president intends to use executive authority to fill the void, and while his actions may not withstand legal scrutiny, Congress shouldn’t let it come to that.  In drafting our nation’s Constitution, the founders committed the first article of this charter to establish the powers of Congress.  I fear that what we are now witnessing in Congress’s failure to act on immigration reform is an erosion of the exclusive authority of Congress as the originator of the laws that govern our society.  Republican members can and should criticize President Obama for seeking to exceed his executive authority.  Yet we cannot escape the fact that through difficult and pragmatic compromise, Congress has the unique ability to address two vitally important needs:  practical and legally sound solutions on immigration reform, and reestablishing the authority and preeminence of the legislative branch of government.

This election was not only a message to President Obama about dissatisfaction with his agenda.  Americans also gave Republicans a rare chance to demonstrate that they can be more practical and less partisan.  In short, the voters are asking, “Can you govern any better?”  I can’t think of a better issue than immigration reform to prove themselves up to the challenge.

WG Staff Contact

Tom Nassif
Former President and CEO

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