Matt Mackowiak

Our immigration system is broken. Few would disagree.

The political debate over immigration reform over the past decade has centered on legalization (also called amnesty) versus border security, and both sides are dug in.

Liberals believe they cannot achieve their aim of the legalization of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country without a comprehensive bill. For this reason, they oppose dealing with immigration reform with individual bills, as the Republican-led House majority intends to do.

Political considerations are, of course, at work here.

Republican elected officials are wary of their base being able to claim they support amnesty. At the same time, Republican Party officials, donors and operatives understand that Republicans must increase their share of the rapidly growing Hispanic vote beyond the less than one-third that Mitt Romney won in 2012.

Therein lies the challenge.

It's easy to forget that a bipartisan immigration reform bill, authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), passed last year in the U.S. Senate. Most Senate Republicans opposed it, and the House has said it is a nonstarter, with weak enforcement provisions and border security that has too many holes in it.

There is another consideration.

If the House and Senate agreed on a legislative package that included legal immigration reform, dealing with those here illegally and new increases in border security, what confidence would Republicans have that the Obama administration would enforce the border security and enforcement parts of the law?

Republicans have good reason to ask this question.

If you take the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the Obama administration has unilaterally (and extra-constitutionally) changed existing law literally dozens of times. They have ignored mandates, delayed provisions, made changes, all through their own "executive authority."

But wait, doesn't Congress write and pass the law and the executive branch enforce it?

Yes, your seventh-grade government teacher was correct.

Assertions of executive branch authority are not new. Indeed, the Bush administration utilized them.

But the Obama administration has taken them beyond what any constitutional scholar ever could have dreamed.

Here's an incomplete list of constitutional violations under President Barack Obama: Under Obamacare, they have delayed (removed?) the employer mandate, delayed out-of-pocket caps and delayed insurance requirements. They issued a scaled-back version of the DREAM Act through executive order. They have made recess appointments when the Senate was not in recess. They've used the IRS for politically motivated purposes. The president directed the U.S. Department of Justice to ignore the law and not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. They went around Congress to enable the EPA to enforce cap and trade. The list could go on.

Why would Republicans pass a law on immigration reform when the Obama administration would be entrusted to enforce it? What confidence should they have that it would be enforced?

Immigration has been an overwhelmingly positive thing for America, over the course of our history. Indeed, as it is often said, we are an immigrant nation. Apart from Native Americans, we are all from somewhere else.

However, in a post-9/11 environment, we must know who is here, and we must control our borders. We must also have a skilled labor force, and that includes legal immigrants.

Republicans have a few paths to choose from going forward:

1) Wait until 2017 and hope that a Republican president is in office.

2) Pass piecemeal immigration reform legislation this year but prevent a conference committee (forcing Senate to pass House bill(s) or nothing at all).

3) Wait until 2015, if the Republicans take the U.S. Senate majority, to negotiate with Obama on immigration reform from a stronger position (this still requires the Obama administration to enforce the law).

All three paths have potential risks.


Matt Mackowiak

Matt Mackowiak is a Washington, DC and Austin, TX based political and communications consultant and the founder and President of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC, providing political consulting, media relations and crisis communications assistance to campaigns, companies, groups and individuals. Since he arrived in Washington, DC, he has served in senior roles for two U.S. Senators, a Governor, in the executive branch, in winning political campaigns, and in the private sector. Over his career Matt has developed deep relationships with national, state and local media and political figures.

Most recently Matt worked with PSG client Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK) as a senior communications adviser, providing counsel on strategy, speechwriting and media relations during the 2011 legislative session in Juneau.

In 2010 Matt served as Campaign Manager for Bill Flores, the Republican nominee in Texas’ 17th Congressional District. After winning a 5-way primary, Flores defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) by 25% in November, the largest margin of victory for a GOP challenger in 2010.

In addition to offering counsel to individuals and corporations, Matt provides political analysis for the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, BBC News, and radio stations throughout the country. Matt’s on-therecord political analysis has appeared in Politico, the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, The Hill, Congressional Quarterly, the Washington Examiner, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and on ABCNews.com. He is a syndicated columnist and has had opinion columns published in the New York Post, New York Daily News, FoxNews.com, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, Roll Call, Austin American-Statesman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Des Moines Register, National Review online, Congressional Quarterly and on the popular blog sites The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. Matt has lectured and given speeches at the University of Illinois, the University of Texas, Texas Christian University, Georgetown University, Catholic University, the University of Denver, American University and the University of North Texas.

From 2005-2009 Matt served as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (RTX), the fourth ranking member of the Republican Leadership, and three-term former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT). Earlier in his career he was a political appointee at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson and Assistant Secretary Stewart Verdery, managed the second largest county in Iowa on the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, counseled corporate clients at international PR firm Burson-Marsteller, and performed White House Presidential and Vice Presidential advance nationwide.

Matt is a Director of the Center for Public Policy and Political Studies at Austin Community College, and is a sustaining member of MaverickPAC. He serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the non-profit Luke’s Wings and enjoys helping Becky’s Fund and USA CARES.

A native of Austin, Texas, Matt graduated with a B.S. in Communications Studies (Political Communication track) from the University of Texas in 2003. Aside from his professional work, he owns and manages the popular blog site www.potomacflacks.com, which the Washingtonian has called “one of the best political blogs.” In his free time, Matt enjoys sports, live music, reading biographies, and is an avid supporter of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the University of Texas.