New Orleans It would be nice to believe that we are finally coming to the endgame on the long battle to win real immigration reform and a path to citizenship for millions. Personally, I’m not convinced we are going to be all that happy with how this sausage is made, but still we have to have a resolution that works, and we have to go forward. Knowing that there may finally be some clarity to the status of millions certainly makes the personal and family pain of deportation more intense, just as the last soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Vietnam during a withdrawal somehow seems worse to bear because the very meaning of their sacrifice has changed tragically. Whether the politics of all of this are international or domestic, there is no question that it is awful and must exist at the highest, most absurd levels of “ends justifying means” rationalization than mere human beings are capable of handling, so it is also no surprise that progressives would rage at the steel in the bars of our current cage.
Rev. Jim Wallis, our old comrade from Sojourners, says in the Times, “Enforcing a broken system aggressively right before we’re about to change it is not just not compassionate, it’s cruel.” Cecilia Munoz, another old comrade now at the sharp point on defense for the White House is left in the same piece to say, “This enforcement equation is at a different place than it was 10 years ago. That should be giving us room to have a constructive debate.” The flaws in both of these arguments like for Wallis in the word “aggressively,” since he has to concede politically that there has to be enforcement, and for Munoz in the word “should,” because despite the Obama Administration having proved its toughness in enforcing the law with record setting deportations of 200,000 people in the last four years, dwarfing past administrations, there are also no signs comprehensive signs that this has given the Administration much leverage in the debate. Senator McCain is hardly the bellwether here, since he has spent years running from his earlier reform efforts and Senator Sessions from Alabama and his, hey, get on enforcement rap still may be the Republican mantra.
The President has protested in private meetings that he has no choice but to enforce the law. Is that really the only choice?
I know this is perhaps radical, but when the only crime justifying deportation is the crime of having entered the country illegally, any path to citizenship will have to essentially pardon that crime and make it moot. The ability to pardon is a power that the President also has without question.
Why is there not a legal strategy to request Presidential pardons for those immigrants who are facing deportation for their lawyers to resist deportation while their request for a pardon is being reviewed?
How would it be bad politics for the President’s lawyers to agree to review the requests for pardons in the face of the current debate in Congress that could make such pardons de facto part of any agreed legislation? If they don’t have the moxie to go that far, then they ought to start indicating the date at which they will implement such a review, if there is not final legislation and put a timetable on this now.
This crisis around deportations is real and is rightly threatening to polarize the debate about reform. This calls for something like a stalemate that freezes everyone in place until Congress and the President can get the job done. To me this seems like the perfect time to get creative and find a radical solution, if you’ll pardon me for saying so.