As unaccompanied children pour across the southern U.S. border, bringing a melange of needs and potential threats with them, folks once again ask if this could be “Obama’s Katrina moment.” The phrase conjures George W. Bush’s handling of rescue and relief after the 2005 hurricane that pummeled New Orleans and the Gulf coast.
Regardless of the desire, among some, to shrug a Bush-era slur onto Obama’s shoulders, the current crisis at our border — and Obama’s refusal to visit the border during a fundraising junket in Texas — is actually much worse that “Obama’s Katrina moment,” and here’s why…
#1. Immigration is, constitutionally, a federal responsibility. Disaster relief is not. President Calvin Coolidge actually refused to travel to the disaster region after the Great Flood of 1927 — a move he viewed as political grandstanding, accomplishing nothing. Coolidge resisted efforts to make flood control a federal issue, believing private property owners were responsible. But immigration, unquestionably, belongs in the federal arena.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives the Congress power: “To establish a uniform rule of naturalization…”
Article II, Section 3 says of the president, “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed…”
As if the constitutional locus of control were not specific enough, the Obama administration and the federal courts have repeatedly slapped the wrists of state and local officials who tried to take the matter into their own hands.
#2. George W. Bush didn’t cause Hurricane Katrina (notwithstanding global-warming alarmists and Cheney-blew-the-levee conspiracy theories to the contrary). Barack Obama, however, did send the signal — by executive order — in June of 2012 that the U.S. would not pursue children and youth for deportation.
#3. An immigration crisis is preventable. Even if you think that President Obama didn’t say, in effect, “suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such are electoral majorities formed,” the constitutional chief executive does have power to align resources to cope with a short-term surge at the border.
Apparently, that’s what the administration planned to do, by issuing an RFP as early as January for transporting unaccompanied alien children to “refugee resettlement shelters throughout the continental U.S.” (thank goodness Hawaii was spared). But that’s not prevention, that’s welcoming a crisis with open arms.
Whether you believe he’s to blame or not, George W. Bush gets to keep the Katrina reference as a synonym for federal government gaffes and bungling.
However, we may need a new phrase for future presidents to describe intentional, unconstitutional malfeasance: Obama’s _____________?