Skip to main content

Obama's immigration move good policy -- and good politics

By Ali Noorani, Special to CNN
June 16, 2012 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ali Noorani: Obama took good step ensuring best, brightest immigrants can stay in U.S.
  • He says allowing kids brought into country with parents to stay won't help everyone, but most
  • He says it's also good politics. Romney's self-deportation approach ignores Latino votes
  • Noorani: Even conservative base is promoting immigration reform. Where's Romney?

Editor's note: Ali Noorani is executive director of the National Immigration Forum Action Fund, an organization based in Washington that advocates the value of immigrants. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Really good policy makes for even better politics.

Today, President Obama took an important step forward to prioritize Department of Homeland Security law enforcement resources to make sure the best and brightest among us can remain with their families.

As DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement, "Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner. But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case."

Ali Noorani
Ali Noorani

Young people who are dedicated to their education and America are exactly the kind of people we need and want.

The president's action would not apply to those who have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. Nor does the action provide a path to permanent residence or citizenship.

But it does keep close to 1 million people who came to the United States as children with their families.

That is good policy and smart government.

And, yes, it is good politics.

Napolitano: Congress needs to act
18-year-old fights to stay in U.S.

The president met the need of the families of the country's fastest-growing electorate.

It is equally true the presumptive Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, is ignoring this electorate.

News: Obama administration to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants

Through his endorsement of "self-deportation" as his version of humane immigration policy, Romney and Republicans have dug themselves a hole some 50 million Latinos deep. The fact is, no voter is going to listen to an economic message if a candidate wants to deport his mother.

For a smart guy, Romney has been remarkably lead-footed. But other Republicans have realized the GOP is about to walk off a ledge.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's much ballyhooed version of the DREAM Act would seem to serve the exact same purpose as Obama's action (that is, if we ever see a bill). Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently went further and said about DREAM youth, "These are precisely the type of individuals we would all want as citizens."

Some social conservatives, the base of the Republican Party, are also voicing their support for immigration reform.

Earlier this week, the Evangelical Immigration Table announced principles signed by more than 150 of the nation's leading evangelicals, including Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. In an interview with Christianity Today, Daly said, "Let's get behind this, not play politics with it left or right and not fear-monger with it. These are people that need dignity. Even though in some cases they've broken the law, there's always that heartfelt story out there where you just tear up looking at what they're facing now. We need to do what's humane."

With the president's decision, politicians on both sides of the aisle have an opportunity to act in a dignified manner.

Will Romney promise to support this move as president, or will he threaten to eliminate this provision with the stroke of a pen?

Voters across the political spectrum are waiting and watching.

Photos: Putting a human face on the immigration debate.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ali Noorani.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 19, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT