November 19, 2014
Arizona Republic
E.J. Montini

Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon is hoping President Barack Obama will not do what he's about to do.

"The best thing would be for the president to stand up and say, 'You know what? I've heard everyone loud and clear," Salmon told me. "Number one, the election. Number two, I'm going to show a modicum of good faith here and assume you guys are going to do what America expects you to do. I will wait until March.' I think people would start using words like 'statesman' if he did that."

He knows that won't happen.

Reports out of Washington indicate the president will announce executive actions Thursday that would qualify millions of undocumented immigrants for deferred deportations based on measures ranging from longevity in the United States to family ties and more.

With no immigration reform passed by Congress the president has said he would do this. He delayed making a move until after the election.

"He's got to know that if he does this it is only going to hurt getting something lasting done," Salmon told me.

Why?

"It runs the gamut," Salmon said. "It's a trust thing. It's frustration...If the president believes that he can do everything on his own, what is the point?"

Among the strategies Republicans are considering would be to pass a continuing resolution that funds everything in government except for the Department of Homeland Security. The essential security elements of that department, like the Border Patrol and Secret Service, would not be affected. But such a move would cut off funding to workers and programs need to process the paperwork for deferred deportations.

"That's an idea on the table," Salmon said. "It does what I've been calling for. It doesn't fund the president's executive action but it funds everything else. That's right now front and center on our strategy."

It could be that Obama just wants to pick a fight with Congress, something immigration activists have been urging him to do.

And there are elements of what the president would do that aren't unprecedented.

In 1990 President George H.W. Bush granted protection from deportation to roughly 1.5 million people under a "family fairness" doctrine that covered family members living with immigrant undergoing the process of legalization and who were in the U.S. before passage of Ronald Reagan's 1986 amnesty law.

Still, legislative compromise is what everyone wants, Salmon said, adding, "But it's difficult to compromise when the president never talks to anyone in congress. When I served with President Clinton I met with him on numerous occasions. I've never met with this president, ever. I don't think he could pick me out of a crowd."

Times change. And attitudes. And politics, as nasty as it's always been, is even nastier now.

An executive action by one president can be undone by the next president. Obama knows this. But he also knows there's not much chance of working out any compromise with Republicans. Especially not now, with the majorities Republicans will have in both houses in January.

Or, as Salmon put it, "Would I rather negotiate the fine points of a border security/immigration overhaul with (incoming senate majority leader and Republican) Mitch McConnell or (outgoing majority leader and Democrat) Harry Reid. I'd rather do it with Mitch McConnell."

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