President Obama is on his way to Texas. He’ll spend much of the time fundraising, but the spotlight will be on his meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry—and the immigration crisis that’s now atop the political agenda.
Obama’s itinerary does not include a visit to the border area. Critics are saying that’s a mistake—that, by avoiding the scene, Obama is committing the same error that Bush made following Hurricane Katrina, with his infamous fly-by and statement that federal emergency management administrator Michael Brown was doing a “heck of a job.” As my colleague Alec MacGillis points out, the analogy is absurd on multiple levels. Bush was guilty of actual neglect—towards the Gulf region, in the storm’s immediate aftermath, and towards emergency response agencies, in the years prior to the debacle. Obama, by contrast, has made immigration a top priority, particularly in his second term, issuing executive orders and pushing for legislation that would overhaul the whole immigration system. You may approve of the approach he’s taken or you may disapprove. You can’t credibly say he’s ignored the problem.
While visiting the border might provide some insights, Obama doesn’t really need more information. He needs more political partners. In Washington, House Republicans refuse to take up reform, even though it has the support of many Republicans in the Senate and even though it would appear to be in their long-term political interest. As a result, Obama is now mulling the options for what he can get done via executive action. It’s a fraught enterprise, politically and maybe legally. As Carrie Budoff Brown and Edward-Isaac Dovere report today in Politico, immigration groups meeting with Obama last week pushed him to do what the Senate bill would have done—to grant temporary legal status to nearly 10 million undocumented workers. Obama, according to the story, told the advocates they need to “right-size” their expectations, which suggests he’s wary of going that far.
In the short term, the best hope is for some kind of emergency funding, enough to deal with the humanitarian crisis—to take care of all these new migrants, especially the kids, while reducing the backlog of cases that are piling up at the immigration courts. Obama’s proposal along those lines, which Rebecca Leber breaks down at QED, has drawn a mixed reaction. That would seem to suggest there’s a chance it could still become law, in some version. But, as with comprehensive reform, it would need to find support from some prominent Republicans. Sitting across the table from one in Texas would seem like a perfectly reasonable way to make that happen, although I suspect this particular Republican politician isn’t very interested in being reasonable.
Things to know
HOBBY LOBBY AFTERMATH: Senate Democrats are ready to introduce legislation that would guarantee access to contraception, even for employees of religious firms. (Sahil Kapur, TPM)
HOBBY LOBBY AFTERMATH, CONTINUED: After the Hobby Lobby decision, liberals warned that religious organizations could invoke similar logic to seek other special dispensations—including the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians in employment. It looks like they were right: A group of religious groups have written the president, seeking exemption from an expected executive order that would prohibit government contractors from denying jobs based on sexual orientation. (Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Erik Eckholm, New York Times)
EDUCATION REFORM: The nation’s largest teacher union just called for the resignation of Obama’s Education Secretary. It’s hard to believe this story isn’t getting more attention. (Jonathan Chait, New York)
Things to read
More advice for Reformicons: Andrew Sullivan is the latest writer to be skeptical, but still a little hopeful, about the intellectuals trying to reshape the Republican Party. (The Dish)
A different kind of segregation: Suzy Khimm asks whether government should do more to help minorities buy houses. The answer is…well, it’s complicated. (MSNBC)
Scariest sentence of the day: “National Institutes of Health workers preparing to move a lab in Bethesda, Md., found an unwelcome surprise in a storage room this month: six vials of smallpox.” (Los Angeles Times)
Things to watch
Immigration should dominate the headlines today. Also, in the World Cup, the Netherlands and Argentina face off for the right to meet Germany in the finals.
Things at QED
What it would cost to deport all the undocumented immigrants in the U.S.? A lot of money—way more than anybody would be willing to spend. Danny Vinik crunches the numbers. Also, the Republicans have decided to hold their 2016 convention in Cleveland—which means they’ve stumbled into the middle of a major Obamacare controversy.