President Obama’s executive decision to stop deporting young undocumented immigrants who have demonstrated the principles of good citizenship is both politically expedient and morally important. The political right has inevitably characterized the President’s actions as simply pandering for votes in an election year. Perhaps they are correct in that the timing of his announcement is a bit suspect.
Still, even though it likely was politically motivated, it recaptures a long time value that as of late has been lost among most Americans. It is a reminder that one’s actions are the best metric for assessing their character.
Many Americans do have the luxury of citizenship being a birthright; among these individuals, some count it as a privilege, while others take it for granted. The beneficiaries of this order have all demonstrated good citizenship through their actions despite not holding the corresponding legal status. Reform of the immigration system in order to treat these individuals with the dignity and respect they deserve was long overdue.
Unfortunately, Obama’s order is hardly a long-term solution: everyone knowledgeable about immigration recognizes the need to comprehensive reform, though they disagree about what form a new system should take. Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney equivocated when asked for a statement on the President’s announcement; he said he supported Sen. Marco Rubio’s plan for legislative reform on immigration, but didn’t articulate his position further.
Indeed, the current plan is only a preliminary step in response to an unresponsive congress that failed to pass the DREAM Act. Mr. Romney is now trying to walk a tightrope on the immigration issue after vowing to veto the DREAM Act if elected President during the primary campaign. Moreover, Marco Rubio’s proposal has not yet been public, which makes this one more issue where the American people are forced to guess where Romney really stands.
The electoral benefit resulting from the announcement may only be minimal, but it is nonetheless refreshing to see an elected official take charge and do right by a group of people deserving of rights and respect. It represents a genuine belief that the spirit of the American dream is still alive, even though one must overcome many challenges in order to attain it.