Saturday, November 22, 2014

Obama trying to rally support for ‘done deal’ on immigration reform

It will be interesting to see what happens next week in Chicago when President Barack Obama comes to meet with assorted activists and groups with an interest in immigration reform.

White House officials say that Obama, who was in Las Vegas, Nev., on Friday to officially sign the executive order that implements his reforms at an area high school with a high percentage of Latino students, then plans to travel to Chicago.

HE’S GOING TO have Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., with him, which is good because Gutierrez has been outspoken on this issue for years. With Luis at his side, it will be less likely that activist-types will be inclined to question Obama about what took him so long to act on the immigration issue.

Officials aren’t offering much in the way of specifics; other than saying it will happen on Tuesday. We don’t know who he’s talking to, or what exactly he plans to say.

Only that he’s trying to talk up immigration reform – he’s likely to be making appearances all across the country to try to convince the apathetic amongst us that this is a long-overdue move.

Not that there’s going to be any swaying of the ideologue-inspired. The people who have opposed any serious revision to national immigration policy are going to be so hard-core in opposition that they’re spouting out a line of rhetoric meant to spin the public into believing that Obama’s immigration reform goals border on criminal and that everybody ought to share their hatred!

WHICH IS THE only reason Obama feels a need to go public with trying to sway the population about the proprietary nature of his immigration proposal.

There’s no practical reason he ought to do anything.

After all, everything Obama proposed this week in the way of making it possible for just under half of the estimated 11 million non-citizens living in this country without a valid visa is now in place.

The point of executive orders is that they take effect immediately upon the president’s decision – and remain until a future president chooses to repeal them.

YOU JUST KNOW that at least one (if not more) of the Republican candidates seeking the party’s nomination for president in 2016 will campaign actively and openly on the promise that his first act upon being elected will be to repeal the Obama immigration reform order.

By going out publicly to explain his order in great detail, Obama ensures that a significant segment of the electorate will realize that candidate (whoever he turns out to be) is merely spouting off rhetorical nonsense – rather than saying anything that ought to be taken seriously. Even though some are going to argue that he did things backward by seeking support after acting.

So will the Obama immigration policy tour achieve that goal? Or is he merely going to manage to tick off the ideologues even more than they already are with anything Obama has done since he had the nerve (in their minds) to even run for president?

If it comes across like I see this as a purely partisan fight with no real policy implications, you’d be correct. This is one of those issues where most people already have made up their minds, and the presidential opponents are trying to dominate the debate.

IT ALMOST REMINDS me of that baseball cliché about the true significance of a manager to the team – that he’s there to keep the five guys on the team who hate the manager from convincing everybody else on the team that their right about him.

So come Tuesday, and possibly in the days leading up to and after it, we’re going to hear more about this issue. Immigration reform is still long-overdue. There are still individuals in our society forced into the shadows because only a revamp approved by Congress and the president working together would resolve their situation.

For those who think it appropriate that Obama gave his approval of an executive order in Las Vegas because he’s gambling the country won’t turn on him, I’d argue that the gamble would have been if he thought he could get away without doing anything on the issue.


Friday, November 21, 2014

From 11 to 6, rather than 11 to zero. Or, what truly constitutes Amnesty?

President Barack Obama gave his quarter-hour-long address to the nation Thursday night, outlining his intent to revise federal immigration policy despite the desire of Republicans in Congress to do nothing on the issue.

It turned out to be a little more precise than I originally would have anticipated. But I wasn’t that far off in expecting that the Obama proposal he wants to implement with his executive order authority would not be all-reaching.

BY SOME ESTIMATES, about 5 million people will be impacted – out of the estimated 11 million people who now live in the United States without citizenship or a valid visa. You could make the argument that there are still way too many people who will be living in the shadows of our society.

Although to the ideologues who are determined to believe this is impeachable behavior on the part of the president, it will be regarded as too few.

Obama’s policy basically tries to say that people without citizenship who come to the attention of authorities because they are committing criminal offenses would still wind up facing deportation from the United States.

He even wants criminal background checks on people applying for the right to live openly in the United States without risking being deported – so as to show that these really are people who are not misbehaving in this country. Despite the ideologue belief that the undocumented are “criminal” by their very existence north of the Rio Bravo del Norte/Rio Grande.

THERE ALSO ARE the provisions Obama would call for that would permit parents of children who are in the nation legitimately to remain. No more of the splitting up of families – which is the big reason institutions like the Catholic Church come out in favor of immigration reform.

Personally, I thought Obama threw in quite a bit of law-and-order type rhetoric and references to the “rule of law” to try to appeal to the ideologues who want to claim that people here without a visa are being disrespectful to U.S. law.

Even though one can argue legitimately that the bureaucratic mess and contradictions that exist in immigration policy now are the reason many find it next to impossible to get the visa.

Not that I expect anyone who is ideologue-inspired to take any of this talk seriously.

THESE ARE PEOPLE who are inclined to be hostile to the president on this issue regardless of what he says. The people who now are going to be talking about government shutdowns, presidential impeachment or any other hostile actions would have been doing so regardless of what Obama said Thursday night.

I did find it interesting to hear Obama use the “amnesty” word by claiming that current immigration policy is the real amnesty because of its inconsistency. I’m sure that alone will manage to offend the ideologues amongst us.

As does the fact that Obama said the desires of social conservatives on immigration issues goes “contrary to” the ideals that our nation allegedly stands for.

Telling the so-called “real Americans” (at least they’re foolish enough to believe they are) that they’re being “un-American” is something that surely will draw blood – so to speak.

AS FOR THE notion that Obama doesn’t have any authority to behave in the way he’s doing on this issue, I’ll be the first to admit that it would be preferable to have Congress pass some sort of plan that then got presidential approval.

At the very least, it would be lasting. Unlike this immigration proposal that could easily be revoked by the whim of a future president. Unlike the idea of health care reform, which is something we’re going to have for some time regardless of how much the ideologues rant about its evils and try to abolish it.

I don’t expect they’ll do so, but if Republicans were serious about the issue instead of trying to demonize all immigrants as “dirty Mexicans” ("¡Besame culo!" is my response to them), their response would be to come up with an alternate immigration reform plan that would supersede any Obama executive order.

But they won’t. We’re going to get as-yet unstated punitive actions against Obama by the new GOP-dominated Congress. And the American people (not just the undocumented amongst us) will be the ones who suffer from the inactivity to occur.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

EXTRA: If Obama didn't appear on network TV, did he really speak?

WTTW-TV was the best local bet to catch President Barack Obama's address to the nation concerning immigration reform.

The local PBS affiliate aired the speech live during its "Chicago Tonight" program, then had a two-person panel -- Kathleen Arnold of DePaul University and David Applegate of the Heartland Institute -- give their quickie, instant analysis.

OF COURSE, THERE also were WGBO and WSNS, the Chicago affiliates of the Spanish-language Univision and Telemundo networks respectively, with the former preempting a portion of the Latin Grammys program to carry the presidential speech that lasted about 15 minutes in total.

People with access to cable television channels could also check out the national-oriented news channels if they wanted to see the speech. I also saw several other places offer a chance to watch the address on their websites -- including the Chicago Sun-Times, to name one.

The point being that people who were interested in hearing what the president had to say had several options to pick from. So it probably wasn't the biggest of deals that none of the major networks chose to air a presidential address that will be key to comprehending the final two years of the Obama administration.

Yes, the White House has made it clear Thursday night they're upset that neither ABC, CBS nor NBC preferred to keep their standard prime time programming in place.

ALTHOUGH TO TELL you the truth, I'm not sure what any of those networks would have added to our understanding of the immigration reform issue.

Besides, after seeing how on Election Day, only independent station WGN-TV chose to give any early airtime to initial vote tallies and analysis (the other stations waited until their late-night newscasts before doing any reporting), I'm to the point where I expect next to nothing from local news broadcasts.

If you really want some detail about what this proposal could mean, you probably will have to turn to the newspaper accounts that already are turning up on various websites by now.

Either that, or go in search of yet another station carrying old "Friends" re-runs that bolster the stations' financial bottom line.


Will anybody be pleased with presidential action on immigration?

President Barack Obama will be in Las Vegas Thursday, where he is to make public his proposal to implement at least partial immigration reform despite the hostile objections of ideologue-inclined Republicans.

As one who has an interest in the issue of our nation’s immigration policies, I’ll be waiting to see what the president has to say tonight.

BUT WHILE MANY political pundits and observers are getting all worked up over what they’re claiming will be a grotesque abuse of political power on behalf of people they’d sooner see removed from the nation, I’m wondering if the result of what we get is going to be something so weak and miniscule that “lame” would be the most accurate way to describe it.

Of course, doing anything at all will offend the ideologues. So to be honest, I don’t care what they have to say later Thursday and in coming days and weeks. They’ve been upset ever since the day Obama first considered running for president. There’s no pleasing them.

Thus far, Obama has refused during his presidency to push for serious immigration reform. Republicans in Congress have made their opposition known, and Obama has been willing to defer to them.

That is why the growing Latino population in this country is becoming less and less supportive of the president. Although to be honest, it should be said that the strong shares of the Latino electorate that Obama took in 2008 and 2012 election cycles were more about showing contempt for the Republican challengers than any real support for Obama.

I WON’T BE surprised if any GOP response to what Obama does Thursday night will wind up offending Latino voters to the extent that they will back whomever Democrats nominate for president over any Republican candidate!

But what will the president do? I honestly believe he’s still going to try to cater to the opposition’s hostility by crafting a proposal that will be miniscule and impact as few individuals as possible.

Thus far, Obama used his “executive order” powers to protect from the threat of deportation young people who were born elsewhere, but have lived the bulk of their lives in the United States. I have heard one theory that he could extend such protection to their parents.

Which is nice; it’s cute. But it’s still far short of fixing the bureaucratic mess that is our immigration policy. There will still be many millions of people being impacted negatively. All because some people want federal law to reinforce their own personal ethnic and racial hang-ups, rather than serve the nation’s needs.

THE COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION reform measure that has been discussed in Congress for years is the way to go because it would resolve the mess in one shot – rather than piecemeal. Having congressional action and presidential approval would be best for a permanent solution.

The flaw of an executive order is that any future president can repeal it at his or her whim. And you just know there will be an ideologically-inclined future occupant of the White House who will make it Priority One to do so.

Which would put a few million people in an even more precarious position than they are already in! That would be the ‘negative’ that the Latino electorate would be inclined to hold against the Obama administration’s legacy.

Admittedly, it is better to see Obama take some sort of action on Thursday rather than do nothing – which is the advice way too many conservative-oriented political observers want him to follow because it means their interests prevail.

BUT DEPENDING ON how wide-ranging his latest action will be will determine whether or not the president is doing the right thing.

Because the last thing anybody in our society needs is some sort of presidential action meant to create a political talking point that allows Obama to say he did something on immigration reform – without actually creating a policy that benefitted anybody.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

EXTRA: Treasurer-elect Mike Frerichs

It seems we finally have a new state treasurer. And no, we didn’t have to endure a lengthy legal fight along the lines of the Gore v. Bush battle of 2000.

It was Wednesday morning that Republican nominee Tom Cross decided to concede defeat to Democrat Mike Frerichs in the Nov. 4 elections. Even Illinois Republican Chairman Tim Schneider went along and issued a statement along those lines, although he seemed more interested in praising Cross than admitting GOP defeat.

THEN AGAIN, I don’t think Frerichs – a state senator from Champaign -- cares, so long as the record shows he got more votes than did Cross – a state representative from Oswego and former Illinois House Republican leader.

For the record, it seems that Frerichs got about 9,400 more votes than did Cross – taking barely over 48 percent of the vote to Cross’ just under 48 percent. The remainder of the ballots actually cast went to Libertarian nominee Matthew Skopek.

There are those who are ranting that Chicago and suburban Cook County “stole” the election – mostly from people who truly do not comprehend how small their rural counties are compared to the inner part of the Chicago metropolitan area.

Although for those who were going out of their way during the past two weeks to see daily updates about the vote (as assorted mail-in and provisional ballots continued to be counted) noticed that Frerichs crept into the lead earlier this week and managed to hold it BEFORE the final Chicago/suburb totals were in.

FOR THOSE WHO want to think Chicago rammed a Democrat through as state treasurer against their will, it would seem that what the Chicago-area vote did was bolstered the margin of victory.

Instead of winning by a few hundred votes, Frerichs becomes treasurer-elect by a figure just low-enough that it can’t be rounded off to 10,000.

Which is still a close result for a statewide election in which about 3 million people cast ballots. If anything, it may be some of those outer counties that kept Cross from the office that way too many political observers wanted to believe he was going to win.

Frerichs actually won Will County with 58.5 percent of the vote, and also took north suburban Lake County. And his suburban Cook percent was only 53.67 percent.

WHICH COULD WELL be why Cross chose not to get involved in any kind of demand for a recount – which is not something Illinois law allows for on an automatic basis.

He saves himself significant legal expenses, leaves open the option of a political future (by not being a sore loser), and only manages to offend the hard-core Republican partisans who can’t get over the fact that having a gubernatorial nominee who took 101 of 102 counties does NOT mean a political wipeout of the opposition.

As for those who are going to rant about “stolen” elections, I don’t think the rest of us should be too concerned. Those people were going to be offended no matter what happened – and they’ll probably revert back to ranting about Kennedy/Nixon of 1960 before long.


Last hurrah? Or a great big raspberry from General Assembly to Gov. Quinn?

It’s going to be intriguing to watch the General Assembly when it convenes for its fall session beginning Wednesday.

For it is the last time legislators will have to deal with the actions and desires of Gov. Pat Quinn. It will be interesting to see what their farewell gift, of sorts, will be to the soon-to-be former governor.

QUINN HAS SAID he wants to have his last significant action as governor be the signing into law of a measure that boosts the minimum wage in Illinois to just over $10 per hour – a nearly two dollar boost over the current state rate and three dollars higher than the federal minimum wage.

But to do so, he needs to have the state Legislature first approve such a bill.

Will a Legislature that often has been willing to thumb its nose at Quinn’s desires feel any need to act on the measure and give the governor a victory?

Or is the major act of this particular veto session – running Wednesday through Friday, then resuming Dec. 2-4 – going to be an override of a veto Quinn issued during the summer months with regards to regulation of ridesharing services.

HOW WILL THE Quinn years come to an end – a bill-signing ceremony meant to thumb his nose in the face of Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, who has said he does not want any action on minimum wage until he become governor in mid-January?

Or with the General Assembly telling Quinn to “shove it” with regards to ride-sharing?

It would be times like this that Quinn wishes Rauner’s campaign rhetoric about “100 years” of Democratic power in state government (referring to the length of service of Quinn, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Senate President John Cullerton) were actually true.

Because then there would be a united front likely to push the minimum wage issue into a bill that would become law. The one-time consumer advocate who helped create the Citizens Utility Board could claim another achievement on behalf of “working people” before he leaves office.

BUT THE REALITY is that the personalities within the Democratic Party power structure often are at odds with each other – they don’t unite in the way that conservative Republicans do.

I have heard way too many legislators tell me that Quinn’s whims are so capricious that they can’t count on him to back them – so they feel no desire to necessarily back him.

Not even on an issue in which the referendum question earlier this month indicated strong support from voters. It’s not about deferring to Rauner in any way – I’m sure Democratic leadership is already preparing itself for a fight to ensure the new governor does not get a swelled ego just because of his new title.

It is why I expect the Quinn farewell to the governorship will involve an attempt to overturn the ride-sharing measure – involving those services such as Lyft and Uber that provide alternatives to taxicab service in select neighborhoods of Chicago and appeal to those people who want to live their whole lives through their smartphones and the apps they choose to download.

EXISTING TAXICAB SERVICES have complained those ridesharing services do not have to comply with the same regulations that your ordinary cab driver has to. That is why the Legislature this spring passed a pair of bills that called for things such as background checks on drivers, vehicle inspections and insurance requirements.

The ride-share people claim those rules are too strict. The business types who oppose any kind of government regulation also hated the bills.

Which makes it ironic that Quinn – the governor who supposedly was so hostile to business and the economy that voters dumped him from office two weeks ago – sided with them, although he said back in August his concern was that state regulations might interfere with municipalities that want to impose even tougher rules on ride-sharing services.

Will the General Assembly that managed to maintain its Democrat-leaning veto-proof majority despite an election that supposedly leaned so heavily Republican decide to use its power one more time on Quinn and tell him what he can symbolically do with his veto?


We’ll have to wait to see how the Illinois House reacts later this week, with the state Senate to follow up in early December if representatives do decide to override on ride-sharing.

Then, they can figure out how to fill the devastating gap in the state budget that will occur when the state income tax declines.

But that is a headache for another political day.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rahm/Chuy could be intriguing political brawl, if we ever get to see it

Could it be that we’ll have a competitive election cycle next year for municipal government; with Rahm Emanuel facing a serious challenge from experienced politico Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to be the next mayor?

It’s possible – presuming that Garcia is able to avoid getting bogged down in the legalistic minutia that experienced political people like Emanuel can use to take down an opponent without actually having to campaign against them.

MONDAY WAS THE first day for people wishing to be on the ballot for the Feb. 27 elections to file their nominating petitions. Emanuel’s people were among those who filed in hopes of getting listed on the top ballot spot.

Garcia wasn’t there. His campaign is waiting until later in the week to file. Officially, they are saying they want to use every bit of time possible to make up for the fact that it was just a few weeks ago that Chuy said publicly he would run for office.

For all I know, Garcia may wind up waiting until the absolute deadline at the close of business on Nov. 24 before filing his petitions – in hopes of getting the absolute last spot on the ballot.

Electoral conventional wisdom contends that being listed first or last on a ballot is worth more votes than being lost in the middle of the list – on account of undecided voters merely picking one of those slots.

FOR AN ELECTION as high-profile as Chicago mayor, there probably won’t be many undecideds. So rushing for an early Monday filing to get the top slot isn’t as important.

But what will be intriguing will be how people react once Garcia does file his petitions. I already sense the feeling of a ballot challenge to try to claim that Garcia doesn’t qualify to run for mayor because he didn’t show enough voter support.

Get him kicked off the ballot, and it won’t matter how many people would like a chance to vote for him. As evidenced by a new poll commissioned by the Chicago Teachers Union (which officially has endorsed Garcia).

They contend that if it were merely a two-candidate race between Emanuel and Garcia, Rahm would take 36 percent with 31 percent for Chuy and another 30 percent undecided, as of now.

WITH SOME THREE months remaining between now and Election Day, that’s a lot of time to dig into that “undecided” vote.

Which is why it is likely that people supportive of Emanuel will go the ballot challenge route. Even if you are unable to kick him off, you can keep his campaign with its limited and yet-to-be raised funds bogged down in trying to justify its ballot spot – rather than seriously campaigning and reminding us of the reasons that many Chicagoans (62 percent have “unfavorable” views of him, according to the teachers union’s poll) wish they could dump Rahm from office.

Now I’m not saying that there really is anything wrong with the nominating petitions Garcia has yet to file. In fact, one Garcia supporter I spoke with stated it perfectly, in saying, “It will be Rahm being Rahm, being a tough guy with his money.”

As in the nearly $10 million he already has raised for his re-election campaign.

IT MIGHT BE peasant money compared to the nearly $100 million that got spent on the recently-completed gubernatorial election (with two-thirds of that on behalf of Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner).

Although it should be stated that Emanuel himself survived a serious ballot challenge in 2011. Could the desire to dump Rahm make it possible for Garcia to survive this year?

That might be where Garcia runs into real problems. Because even his supporters admit his recognition declines outside of the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods, along with the South Chicago and East Side communities that comprise the bulk of the city’s Mexican-oriented population.

Can Chuy make himself and his anti-establishment (as in anything connected to the name “Daley”) political background known even if his very existence on the ballot is being challenged?

WILL THE REST of Chicago take to Garcia? Or will the anti-Emanuel vote wind up getting split between 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti, former alderman Robert Shaw and the others (including one token Republican) who are likely to file nominating petitions?

That will be the key question in determining whether Emanuel’s political fantasy will come true!