I congratulate Mitt Romney for having the courage to stand up and set forth critical policy positions on immigration reform. President Barack Obama — other than a probably illegal and shortsighted executive order impacting only young undocumented immigrants — has no policy.
Worse, does he remember his own words of March 2011 that he can't "just suspend deportations through executive order"? That is exactly what he did last week. For three years, the president forgot about his promises to the Hispanic community, which he only remembered during an election year.
Admittedly, this is a tough subject to tackle, entailing a major bureaucratic shake-up, tough law-and-order questions, and weighing what's right for America against compassion for families looking for a better life. No wonder this president has lacked the courage to spell out his convictions — he has deemed it too high a political price to pay in spite of the consequences of inaction to our country.
Let's be clear about the predicament facing America:
Without immigration we have a declining population. Americans are having smaller families, and in many cases, opting for none at all. A declining population means an aging population. Look at Japan — without an increasing population, economic expansion is unlikely. Without GDP growth and with our massive debt, it's hard to fathom a sensible formula for tackling our national debt crisis and balancing our budget.
Our immigration system under Obama's watch is broken. As Romney said last week at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, our visa quotas can't handle the needs of our businesses and therefore we are losing millions of jobs overseas.
Our borders remain porous and our employers need workers — especially in the agricultural, construction and health care sectors. But our immigration system is incapable of meeting these needs lawfully. States have been forced to act with piecemeal legislation when the federal government has been derelict with its responsibilities. Just ask our neighbors from Alabama and Georgia about how their states have suffered economically from laws banning the hiring of illegal immigrants without offering a solution to their hiring needs. Or how officials have looked the other way as employers in other states hire illegal immigrants to pick our crops and build our homes. Both are bad outcomes as a direct result of presidential and congressional inaction. But what's holding us back is not the stalemate in Congress as the president claims — it's lack of leadership.
Since the issue is the Dream Act, many of us naively dreamed that the president would take the opportunity at last week's NALEO meeting to acknowledge that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been reaching across the political aisle for solutions. He should have pledged to contact Rubio and other congressional leaders and invite them to the White House to figure something out now for the sake of these children. Instead Obama once again went on his customary divisive binge blaming Republicans and taking no responsibility.
We need a president with a comprehensive plan who can secure our borders and get our economy back on track. Obama has had almost four years to turn this around, and for two of those years he had a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. In the president's own words: "We know what the solutions are." The time is come for action, not excuses or political pandering.
Immigration reform must be a top priority, and any serious reform legislation must embrace these key principles: strong border security; visa reform for highly skilled workers, investors and agricultural workers; and documenting the millions of illegal immigrants already here.
It is deeply troubling that the president thinks that "Congress should be the one to fix this." We need action from the president now that is responsible and comprehensive, not this executive order teaser. Too much is at stake to give him a pass on this one.
Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union and former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.