The Limits of Compassion in Politics
Now comes President Obama playing the same "compassionate" card by initiating a short-term immigration policy sparing some children of illegal immigrants, under certain conditions, from the threat of deportation. In response,
"The timing is pretty clear," he said Sunday on
It should be no surprise that, in a tight presidential race, Obama would choose this particular time to adopt the plan. Under it, children who were brought to this country by illegally entering parents, and who are now law-abiding aliens under age 30, can remain here to work and go to school.
It does not grant outright amnesty but permits eventual application for it, provided the young immigant has lived here for five years, has no criminal record, and attends high school or college, or has served in the military. It is admittedly a stopgap measure short of the so-called Dream Act proposed by Obama, which to date has failed in
This sort of compassionate policy fits squarely with traditional liberal Democratic philosophy, but the timing of it raises another political issue. It may be, as Obama said in announcing it in the Rose Garden, "the right thing to do" for individuals under a legal cloud through no fault of their own. But at a time when unemployment rate hovers around 8 percent, is allowing 1.4 million young illegal immigrants legal access to the workforce the wisest answer?
Inevitably, jobless Americans, who are much more focused on their personal dilemma than on the plight of these young immigrants, are already asking why Obama has decided to push this agenda right now. In doing so, he has handed Romney another opportunity to suggest that coping with the unemployment of Americans already here is not the president's prime concern when it should be.
This is not the first time, however, that Obama has put forward a plan of a controversial nature carrying risk of political pushback. His decision early in his presidency to make heath-care insurance reform the centerpiece of his legislative agenda consumed more than his first year in office, and has kept him on the defensive ever since.
The previous Democratic president,
The whole issue of humanitarian relief from immigrant deportation has come at a time when "compassion" is not quite a dirty word in American politics. But neither is it a driving force for most voters in choosing a president. The old question "What's in it for me?" is always asked in tough economic times, and it doesn't leave much room for compassion toward the other guy.
Thus Obama's plea for understanding figures to be a hard sell to many Americans who will see his latest action not only as a transparent bid for Hispanic votes, but also as detrimental to their own deeper economic concerns.
The Statue of Liberty's invitation long ago to "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" carried caveats. Obama's latest move has its own limitations that in the end could earn him as much political opposition as gain.
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The Limits of Compassion in Politics | Politics
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