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Obama legacy ruined by House defeat

Published:Monday | November 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Obama legacy ruined by House defeat


President Obama is intent on leaving a legacy of public-policy transformation in the annals of America's political system. His first major public policy took the form of the hotly contested Affordable Care Act, and now he has set his sights on tackling immigration before he demits office.

Reuters has said that President Obama is expected to institute executive action that would offer legal documents to as many as five million immigrants in the country illegally, nearly double the number who received protection from deportation under amnesty legislation in 1986.

The problem with this executive action is that it does not do nearly as much as what is needed to get the ball of immigration reform rolling. For one, its not permanent, and second, it will not provide any formal, lasting immigration status, much less a pathway to citizenship.

Obama would have really wanted an overhaul of the entire immigration system to complete his legacy of public-policy reform. The fact is that without actual legislation, the executive measures are just a quick fix and a last-ditch effort, as Congress could change the laws that President Obama will rely on for his actions, and a future president could cancel the programme, leaving immigrants out in the open and even more exposed to removal.

President Obama said he had decided to take the measures after an immigration overhaul passed by the Senate died this year in the Republican-controlled House. His plans to act unilaterally have infuriated Republicans, newly empowered in the midterm elections, who say they earned a chance at the polls to write their own immigration legislation in the Congress they will control next year.

The president was lucky to have got Obamacare passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress in his first term in office, but now with the Republicans in power on Capitol Hill, his plans to cement his legacy will only be derailed.

The measures being moved by Obama represent a symbol of a weakened president whose legacy has been hampered by the political tribalism which plagues the American political system.