After President Barack Obama's speech outlining his immigration plan, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has tried to strike a balance between support and impeachment, threatening to "defund" Obama's plan. The problem is, the president's action is largely one of inaction, making it difficult to withhold money for the non-event. And funds would be cut for targeting dangerous criminals here illegally, as well as border security.
In the wake of Obama's prime-time address on immigration, Graham was interviewed by Fox News. On their program "America's Newsroom," Graham cautioned his party to neither give in, nor respond to harshly, to Obama's executive order.
Like many moderate Republicans, Graham can't risk passing the President's plan, without incurring the wrath of the TEA Party. At the same time, shutting down the government or trying to impeach Obama would lead to a backlash from independents and moderates, in addition to Democrats. So that's why Senator Graham is trying to defund Obama's plan.
"I think you can defund that part of the federal government that would implement the executive order, if he goes down that road, and fund the rest of the government. That seems to be a measured response," the Palmetto State legislator said in a Newsmax story.
As the Newsmax story continued "If lawmakers defund Obama's plan to allow millions of illegal citizens to stay and work in the U.S. he said the House could then work on a 'comprehensive deal, even piece by piece deal.'"
It is a measured response. But I'm not sure it's a smart plan. Here's why.
The immigration executive order Obama has proposed is to not arrest and deport U.S. citizens' parents, who are not U.S. citizens, according to Reuters News Service. So it's not clear what Senator Graham would be defunding here. It's like trying to stop spending on America's war with Bangladesh. It's hard to prevent the non-event.
So what rights will these primarily senior citizens have in the executive order?
"The changes will offer those who qualify the chance to stay temporarily in the country for three years, as long as they pass background checks and pay back taxes. But they will not be offered a path to eventual citizenship or be eligible for federal benefits or health care programs," a CNN Report reveals. It also calls for better border security.
Defunding putting illegal immigrants through background checks or paying back taxes doesn't sound like a great idea either. If anything, collecting unpaid taxes from these immigrants would provide income. And cutting funds for border security wouldn't help the GOP cause.
And as for background checks, the executive order directs immigration authorities to target those involved in dangerous criminal activities ahead of those who are not. That's something most Republicans would probably prefer. Defunding that idea means there will be no special priority for busting illegal immigrants who are a greater threat.
Senator Graham is not only dedicated to helping law enforcement, and is good at finding compromises. He and his Senate allies should require the ICE authorities to follow the executive order and provide some real teeth to it, so it isn't just some empty promise.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.