TIME Terrorism

The Long, Hard Slog Continues

Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a Taliban attack in Kabul
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a Taliban attack in Kabul on Wednesday. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

After 13 years, there is no "pause" button in the war on terror

On Saturday, Islamist militants halted a bus crammed with 60 passengers in northeastern Kenya, killing 28 who could not recite a Muslim declaration of faith. The same day, word leaked that President Obama has agreed to a stepped-up combat role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the original Dec. 31, 2014, deadline.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed at least 49 people—mostly kids—at a volleyball game in eastern Afghanistan. Later in the day, the Washington Post told of one of the final U.S. military units readying to ship out for Afghanistan, even as the Taliban grow in strength just outside Kabul.

As the brutality in Africa and Afghanistan suggests, the U.S. preoccupation with defining conflicts by country and calendar is the way nations, not terrorists, wage war. The U.S. mostly views the troubled map stretching from Libya to Pakistan as a chessboard governed by sovereign borders that its foes ignore.

“All across these unstable regions we are confronting a multitude of threats to the U.S. and our interests, from longstanding well-known terrorist groups but also from newer and much more loosely connected networks of like-minded violent extremists,” Nicholas Rasmussen, tapped to head the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing Thursday. These new breeds, he warned, “operate without regard to national borders or established organizational norms.”

Deaths caused by terrorism jumped from 11,133 in 2012 to 17,958 in 2013, a 61% hike, according to an independent accounting released last Tuesday. Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria accounted for 80% of the toll, according to the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace. Officials blamed four radical Islamist groups for two-thirds of the carnage.

Don Rumsfeld was right.

In the falls of 2003, the defense secretary defined the post-9/11 wars as a “long, hard slog.” Eleven years later, war-weary Americans—eager to escape wars that have no intention of letting them go, are gaining an appreciation for what he meant.

“The Middle East is in turmoil with the deepening of the enmity between Sunnis and Shias, the collapse of a number of nation states, really failed states, and the elimination of meaningful borders,” political scientist Michael Curtis wrote in an essay for the weekend’s Halifax International Security Forum (as if to prove the point, jihadists piggybacked on tweets from the gathering in Nova Scotia’s capital to distribute a video featuring a British captive being held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria).

Meanwhile, late Friday, the House Intelligence Committee issued a report concluding that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans was more screw-up than cover-up. For two years, lawmakers have sought to cast the event as an epic White House scandal, when reality has suggested it was more a string of mistakes and bad luck. A foreigner couldn’t be blamed if she thought GOP lawmakers viewed Obama as a bigger menace than al Qaeda. Imagine if all that partisan firepower had been directed at the real enemy.

The U.S. and its allies have yet to take on this spreading scourge in a way that is sustainable and successful. That’s going to require an international front willing to take on autocracies, kleptomaniacs and nascent nuclear powers. Success won’t come to politicians nervously glancing at their watches, or their electoral calendar. It’s going to take decades. (Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., took a tentative step in this direction over the weekend when he called for a U.S. declaration of a year-long war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.)

After his memo leaked in 2003, Rumsfeld groused to reporters that the U.S. too often measures the wrong things.

“We have lots of yardsticks and metrics where we can measure things like what’s taking place in Iraq, what’s taking place in Afghanistan, how we’re doing in the finances, how we’re doing in capturing and killing, for example, the top 55 Iraqi leaders or the top al Qaeda leaders,” he said.

But the U.S. and its allies too often have come up empty-handed when it comes to tallying the important numbers.

“How many young people are being taught to go out as suicide bombers and kill people?” Rumsfeld wanted to know. “That’s the question. How many are there? And how does that in-flow of terrorists in the world get reduced so that the number of people being captured or killed is greater than the ones being produced?”

More than a decade after Rumsfeld asked, we still have no idea.

TIME People

Washington D.C. Mourns Its ‘Mayor for Life’

Marion Barry died Sunday at age 78

Flags are flying at half-staff in Washington, D.C., as the city mourns former mayor Marion Barry, who died Sunday at age 78.

A spokesperson for current mayor of the nation’s capital, Vincent Gray, said he ordered that the flags be lowered in Barry’s honor, the Associated Press reports. “Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city,” Gray said in a statement. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.”

There was a notable outpouring of tributes from members of the Washington media, many of whom emphasized his community contributions rather than the more notorious chapters in his life. People are expected to gather outside his home in Southeast D.C. at 5 p.m. Sunday for a vigil.

President Barack Obama also issued a statement Sunday remembering Barry’s commitment to civil rights and combatting poverty.

“Marion was born a sharecropper’s son, came of age during the civil rights movement and became a fixture in D.C. politics for decades,” he said. “During his decades in elected office in D.C., he put in place historic programs to lift working people out of poverty, expand opportunity and begin to make real the promise of home rule.” A key part of Barry’s legacy was his summer jobs program.

Barry served as the city’s second elected mayor from 1979 until 1991. In 1990, the FBI and Washington police busted him in a drug sting, and video footage of him smoking crack cocaine was widely circulated. He served six months in prison on a possession conviction but was re-elected mayor in 1995 in a remarkable political comeback. The longevity of his career earned him the nickname Mayor for Life.

He went to work in consulting after leaving the mayor’s office in 1999, but he returned to politics again in 2004 when he was elected to the D.C. Council, representing part of Southeast Washington until his death.

[AP]

TIME Election 2016

Obama: Voters Want ‘New Car Smell’ in 2016

US President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama at the Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nov. 21 2014. Michael Nelson—EPA

The President said he himself has gotten a few 'dings' while serving two terms

President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Sunday that voters will be looking for a “fresh start” as they go to the polls in 2016 to select his successor.

“I think the American people, you know, they’re going to want—you know, that new car smell. You know, their own—they want to drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me,” Obama told ABC This Week’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped Friday in Las Vegas, a day after Obama announced his executive action on immigration.

The president acknowledged he’s accumulated “some dings,” while in office, adding he’s “very interested” in making sure a Democrat is his successor. “So I’m gonna do everything I can, obviously, to make sure that—whoever the nominee is is successful,” he said.

Obama spoke positively of likely Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose age and longevity in Washington has already become a target of likely Republican challengers, and against whom he ran in 2008 as the ‘new car smell’ candidate. He called Clinton a friend and told Stephanopoulos they still speak regularly, adding, “I think she and—and a number of other possible Democratic candidates, would be terrific presidents.”

But Obama, who was largely absent on the campaign trail for Democrats in 2014 due to his low poll numbers, acknowledged his successor would likely want him to stay away in 2016. “You know, they’re– they’re probably not gonna be looking at me to campaign too much,” he said, predicting “folks will be ready to see me—go off to the next thing.”

TIME People

Former DC Mayor Marion Barry Dies at 78

(WASHINGTON) — Divisive and flamboyant, maddening and beloved, Marion Barry outshone every politician in the 40-year history of District of Columbia self-rule. But for many, his legacy was not defined by the accomplishments and failures of his four terms as mayor and long service on the D.C. Council.

Instead, Barry will be remembered for a single night in a downtown Washington hotel room and the grainy video that showed him lighting a crack pipe in the company of a much-younger woman. When FBI agents burst in, he referred to her with an expletive. She “set me up,” Barry said.

Barry died Sunday at 78. His family said in statement that Barry died shortly after midnight at the United Medical Center, after having been released from Howard University Hospital on Saturday. No cause of death was given, but his spokeswoman LaToya Foster said he collapsed outside his home.

Speaking at a 4 a.m. press conference at United Medical Center, the city’s mayor-elect Muriel Bowser called Barry an “inspiration to so many people and a fighter for people.”

“Mr. Barry, I can say this, lived up until the minute the way he wanted to live,” said Bowser, who had served with Barry on the D.C. Council.

The year was 1990, and crack cocaine had exploded in the district, turning it into the nation’s murder capital. In his third term, the man known as the “Mayor for Life” became a symbol of a foundering city.

Federal authorities had been investigating him for years for his alleged ties to drug suspects, and while he denied using drugs, his late-night partying was taking a toll on his job performance.

The arrest and subsequent conviction — a jury deadlocked on most counts, convicting him of a single count of drug possession — was a turning point for Barry. He had been elected to his first term as mayor in 1978 with broad support from across the city. With his good looks, charisma and background in the civil rights movement, he was embraced the dynamic leader the city’s young government needed. The Washington Post endorsed him in each of his first three mayoral runs, although the 1986 endorsement was unenthusiastic.

Barry’s six-month term in federal prison was hardly the end of his political career. But it forever changed how it was perceived. To some, he was a pariah and an embarrassment. But to many district residents, particularly lower-income blacks, he was still a hero, someone unfairly persecuted for personal failures.

Barry returned to the D.C. Council in 1992, representing the poorest of the city’s eight wards. Two years later, he won his fourth and final term as mayor. The electorate was starkly divided along racial lines, and Barry advised those who had not supported his candidacy to “get over it.”

“Marion Barry changed America with his unmitigated gall to stand up in the ashes of where he had fallen and come back to win,” poet Maya Angelou said in 1999.

Barry’s triumph, though, was short-lived. In 1995, with the city flirting with bankruptcy from years of bloated, unaccountable government, much of it under Barry, Congress stripped him of much of his power and installed a financial control board. Barry held authority over little more than the city’s parks, libraries and community access cable TV station. He decided against seeking a fifth term.

Barry spent a few years working as a municipal bond consultant, but he couldn’t stay away from politics. In 2004, he returned to the council, again representing Ward 8, where he remained beloved. Many constituents still referred to him as “Mayor Barry,” and he was re-elected in 2008 and 2012.

Barry was born March 6, 1936, to Marion and Mattie Barry, in the small Mississippi delta town of Itta Bena, and was raised in Memphis, Tenn., after the death of his father, a sharecropper.

While an undergraduate at LeMoyne College (now LeMoyne-Owen College), Barry picked up the nickname “Shep” in reference to Soviet propagandist Dmitri Shepilov for his ardent support of the civil rights movement. Barry began using Shepilov as his middle name.

Barry did graduate work in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., earning a master’s degree. He left school short of a doctorate to work in the civil rights movement.

His political rise began in 1960, when he became the first national chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, which sent young people into the South to register black voters and became known as one of the most militant civil rights groups of that era.

Barry’s work with the committee brought him to Washington, where he became immersed in local issues, joining boycotts of the bus system and leading rallies in support of the city’s fledgling home rule efforts.

In 1970, The Post wrote: “Four years ago widely considered a young Black Power Militant with almost no constituency, (Barry) has become a man who is listened to — if not fully accepted — on all sides.”

Barry’s activism propelled him into local politics, first as a member of the Board of Education and then in 1974 as a member of the first elected city council organized under home rule legislation.

In 1977, he was wounded by a shotgun blast in the Hanafi Muslim takeover of D.C.’s city hall. A young reporter was killed. The shooting was credited with strengthening him politically.

In 1978, he defeated incumbent Mayor Walter Washington — the city’s first home rule mayor — in the Democratic primary and went on to easily win the general election.

Barry’s early years in office were marked by improvement in many city services and a dramatic expansion of the government payroll, creating a thriving black middle class in the nation’s capital. Barry established a summer jobs program that gave many young people their first work experience and earned him political capital.

In his second term, the district’s finances were rockier, and some of his appointees were caught up in corruption scandals.

The city’s drug-fueled decline mirrored Barry’s battles with his personal demons, leading to the infamous hotel room arrest on Jan. 19, 1990. The video of Barry was widely distributed to the media and made him infamous worldwide.

A few months after his arrest, long-time civil rights advocate and educator Roger Wilkins, a past supporter, wrote in The Post: “Marion Barry used the elders and lied to the young. He has manipulated thousands of others with his cynical use of charges of racism to defend his malodorous personal failures.”

Even after his comeback, controversy continued to dog Barry. Several times after his 1990 arrest, Barry sought treatment or counseling for problems with prescription medications or other substances. In 2002, he made an attempt to seek an at-large seat on the D.C. Council but abandoned his bid amid allegations of renewed illegal drug use.

In 2006, Barry was given three years of probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges for failing to file tax returns from 1999 to 2004. As part of a plea bargain, he agreed to file future federal and local tax returns annually, a promise prosecutors later said he had failed to keep.

In 2010, he was censured by the council and stripped of his committee assignments for steering a government contract to a former girlfriend. The council censured him again in 2013 for accepting cash gifts from city contractors.

Barry played the role of elder statesman in his later years on the council, but he sometimes exasperated his colleagues with his wavering attention at meetings and frequent, rambling references to his tenure as mayor.

He suffered numerous health problems over the years. In addition to kidney failure, he survived prostate cancer, undergoing surgery in 1995 and a follow-up procedure in 2000. In late 2011, he underwent minor surgery on his urinary tract. In early 2014, he spent several weeks in hospitals and a rehabilitation center battling infections and related complications.

In a statement Sunday, current Mayor Vincent C. Gray expressed deep sadness after learning about Barry’s death. Gray spoke with Barry’s wife, Cora Masters Barry, late Saturday and shared his condolences and sympathies with her. The couple was long estranged but never divorced.

“Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city,” Gray said. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.”

Mayor Gray said that he would work with Barry’s family and the Council to plan official ceremonies “worthy of a true statesman of the District of Columbia.”

Barry was married four times and is survived by his wife, Cora, and one son, Marion Christopher Barry.

TIME Immigration

President Obama Distorts Amnesty to Sell His Executive Actions

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about immigration reform during a visit to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about immigration reform during a visit to Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nov. 21, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

When Presidents abuse words, the nation should notice

President Obama has rolled out his executive action on immigration with a talking point that guts the meaning of a word for political ends. As a general rule, democracies should take notice when their leaders do this.

“I know critics call this ‘amnesty,'” he said today in a speech in Nevada, describing his decision to give temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. “It’s not amnesty. Amnesty is what we have now.”

The Merriam Webster dictionary, an American English standard, gives us this definition of “amnesty”: “the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.” The Oxford dictionary gives two definitions: “an official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offenses” and “an undertaking by the authorities to take no action against specified offenses or offenders during a fixed period.” The word “pardon” in both cases is defined to mean a forgiveness for an offense.

As a word in politics, “amnesty” has been as contested as any in recent years. What is not contested is the fact that those immigrants who reside in the United States without documentation have broken the law, even if that law is not widely enforced. In Arizona v. United States, the recent Supreme Court case that overturned a harsh state immigration law, Justice Anthony Kennedy summed up current federal law like this: “Unlawful entry and unlawful reentry into the country are federal offenses. Once here, aliens are required to register with the Federal Government and to carry proof of status on their person. Failure to do so is a federal misdemeanor.” The punishment can include a small fine, possible imprisonment and, “upon the order of the Attorney General,” removal from the country.

Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform label any effort “amnesty” if it treats undocumented immigrants with any official leniency short of prompt punishment under current law and deportation. For the pro-immigration reform camp, a reform proposal is only “amnesty” if it fails to include some penalty, even a different one than those prescribed, for having initially broken the law. This camp argues that the Senate-passed immigration reform proposal, for instance, was not “amnesty,” since it required immigrants to pay a fine before establishing a legal path for them to stay in the country.

President Obama is doing something more convoluted and alarming with the word “amnesty” than both of these camps. His action grants temporary and revokable work permits and legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, if they pay back taxes and pass a background check. There is no fine. He is taking these actions under current law, using the discretion given to the Attorney General over enforcement. He argues that this is not “amnesty,” even though he is granting clear temporary forgiveness, since there is no official pardon, just a mass delay of enforcement.

But Obama goes further. “Amnesty is what we have now,” he says of the current system, in which millions live in violation of a law that is generally not enforced. The suggestion here is that the current lack of enforcement is itself a sort of unofficial pardon. So he is arguing at the same time that granting a new pardon is not amnesty and that allowing an existing pardon to continue is amnesty. He can’t have it both ways.

These two conflicting thoughts become harder to manage when the pardons are compared to each other. The White House says that the core rationale for the President’s actions is “humanitarian,” since the new rules will make it easier for families with undocumented parents and documented children to stay with each other. Implicit in this is the conceit that the new pardon (a temporary work permit and legal status) is less severe than the old pardon (a lack of enforcement).

Those undocumented immigrants who do not receive the President’s dispensation will be undeniably worse off: they will continue to live under the threat of deportation, they will be restricted in their ability to travel outside the United States, and they will continue to lack the ability, in most cases, to find legal employment. President Obama is not arguing otherwise. The premise of his action is that he is making the lives of 5 million better and more fair.

In the end, Obama has made a mush of meaning. Why does this matter? Because words matter. They mean specific things. And that meaning must be defended, because words facilitate the basic premise of open and honest debate that undergirds a democratic system. As George Orwell wrote, in the definitive essay on this topic, “[I]f thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” War is not peace. The sun is not blue. Six is not less than five.

There are lots of ways Obama could have chosen to make his case that his executive actions provide the nation an improvement over the status quo. Corrupting the meaning of a word, however, is not a noble one, nor is confusing the debate. It is, to use another word with a clear meaning, deceptive.

TIME

House Intel Panel Debunks Many Benghazi Theories

A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames
A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames, Sept. 11, 2012. Esam Al-Fetori—Reuters

(WASHINGTON) — A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

The attacks in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. A Libyan extremist, Ahmed Abu Khatalla, is facing trial on murder charges after he was captured in Libya and taken to the U.S.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to “stand down” after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the House Intelligence Committee report.

The report did find, however, that the State Department facility where Stevens and Smith were killed was not well-protected, and that State Department security agents knew they could not defend it from a well-armed attack. Previous reports have found that requests for security improvements were not acted upon in Washington.

“We spent thousands of hours asking questions, poring over documents, reviewing intelligence assessments, reading cables and emails, and held a total of 20 committee events and hearings,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the committee’s chairman, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat, in a joint statement.

“We conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials from Benghazi and Tripoli as well as eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes. Their actions saved lives,” they said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who serves on the intelligence panel and the Benghazi select committee, said, “It’s my hope that this report will put to rest many of the questions that have been asked and answered yet again, and that the Benghazi Select Committee will accept these findings and instead focus its attention on the State Department’s progress in securing our facilities around the world and standing up our fast response capabilities.”

Some of the harshest charges have been leveled at Rice, now Obama’s national security adviser, who represented the Obama administration on Sunday talk shows the weekend after the attack. Rice repeated talking points that wrongly described a protest over a video deemed offensive to Muslims.

But Rice’s comments were based on faulty intelligence from multiple agencies, according to the report. Analysts received 21 reports that a protest occurred in Benghazi, the report said —14 from the Open Source Center, which reviews news reports; one from the CIA; two from the Defense Department; and four from the National Security Agency.

In the years since, some participants in the attack have said they were motivated by the video. The attackers were a mix of extremists and hangers on, the investigation found.

“To this day,” the report said, “significant intelligence gaps regarding the identities, affiliations and motivations of the attackers remain.”

TIME Immigration

Obama Touts Immigration Actions in Las Vegas

Raucuous crowd in Las Vegas cheers "Si, se puede"

President Barack Obama took his immigration actions on the road Friday, trumpeting in a speech in Las Vegas his announcement that his administration would defer deportations for roughly five million illegal immigrants.

Addressing a raucous audience at a local high school a day after laying out his announcement in a primetime address to the nation, Obama rejected the complaints of congressional Republicans that his actions were unlawful or an overreach, saying he had given Congress plenty of time to take action and “we can’t afford” to wait any longer.

“I told [Speaker of the House] John Boehner I would—yeah, I’ll wash your car, I’ll walk your dog—whatever you need to do, just call the bill,” Obama said, complaining that House Republicans refused to take up the Senate-passed bipartisan immigration reform bill. “That’s how democracy is supposed to work. And if the votes hadn’t been there, then we would have had to start over, but at least give it a shot. And he didn’t do it. And the fact that a year-and-a-half has gone by means that time has been wasted—and during that time families have been separated, and during that time businesses have been harmed.”

Obama said lawmakers who question his authority to act have a simple recourse: passing a comprehensive immigration bill for his signature. “When members of Congress question my authority to make our immigration system work better, I have a simple answer: pass a bill,” Obama said as the audience cheered and chanted “Si, se puede.” “Pass a bill. Pass a bill. Nobody is stopping them from passing a bill.”

Before deplaning Air Force One, Obama signed two memoranda to develop policies to better help integrate immigrants into the United States and improve the immigration visa system. Separately, the Department of Homeland Security released memoranda on efforts to improve border security, end the controversial “Secure Communities” program and employ prosecutorial discretion to allowing many illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. “Under this revised policy, those who entered illegally prior to January 1, 2014, who never disobeyed a prior order of removal, and were never convicted of a serious offense, will not be priorities for removal,” the department said of a policy that will take effect on Jan. 5, 2015. DHS also announced that it would begin accepting applications within the next 180 day for the expanded deferred action program, which would allow millions of immigrants to remain in the U.S. legally for three years on a renewable basis.

Obama said he understood the worries of those concerned about the impact of immigration on their jobs and the “fabric of our country,” but said he also heard the concerns of the so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and of the American citizens with family members who immigrated illegally to be near them.

“We’re not a nation that kicks out strivers and dreamers who want to earn their piece of the American dream,” Obama said. “We’re a nation that finds a way to welcome them. We make them earn it, but we welcome them in as fellow human beings, fellow children of God, and we harness their talents to make the future brighter for everybody.”

The executive actions put pressure on Republicans who have strenuously objected to Obama’s process, while the substance of his announcements places the GOP in a bind with an ever-more-diverse presidential electorate.

TIME Immigration

Obama’s Actions Won’t Increase Illegal Immigration, Expert Says

Barack Obama Immigration
President Barack Obama signs two presidential memoranda associated with his actions on immigration in his office, on Air Force One as he arrives at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nov. 21, 2014. Carolyn Kaster—AP

House Speaker John Boehner is arguing that President Obama’s moves to defer deportations for up to five million undocumented immigrants will make illegal immigration worse, citing President Obama’s own past words to make the argument.

But a top immigration expert disagreed, arguing that the causes of illegal immigration are more complex.

Obama announced Thursday that he would allow millions of undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident children who have been living in the country for at least five years to avoid deportation for three years if they pay back taxes and pass a criminal background check.

Boehner said that will only encourage more people to try to cross the border. His office pointed to a 2010 Obama statement in which the President said that providing undocumented workers legal status “could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration.”

“The action by the President yesterday will only encourage more people to come here illegally and put their lives at risk,” said Boehner. “We saw the humanitarian crisis on our border last summer—how horrific it was. Well next summer, it could be worse.”

Boehner was referring to a surge in unaccompanied minors from October 2013 through September, when over 68,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the southwest border, a 77% increase over the previous year. (The number of children coming over has sharply declined in the past few months.)

But Doris Meissner, the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s immigration policy work, said that Boehner’s criticism was off. Here’s what she told TIME:

It goes to the more general idea of whether a legal status program functions as a magnet to future illegal immigration and that’s always something that’s been out there and has been a concern, but the reality today is that we have invested so much in southwest border enforcement…and the President has underscored that again that he is going to allocate even more additional resources to border enforcement. The evidence that we have is that our illegal immigration across the southwest border is at it’s lowest level since the early 1970s when the current wave of illegal immigration largely from Mexico began, we have net minus immigration from Mexico.

The child migrant spurt that happened over the last year was much more a function of conditions in those three countries—Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—and notion of ‘permisos’ in the United States. But that’s now really receded dramatically. So if you take the spurt of Central American crossings out of the numbers for last year, you find the lowest levels of illegal immigration apprehensions across the southwest border in decades. Now that’s not to say that you can discount Central American migration but…it’s a function of different circumstances then the illegal immigration that has led to what the President is saying now.

This action that he has taken now is retrospective. You have to have been in the country for five years to qualify for it. It’s for people as of the date of announcement; there’s no eligibility for people that might be coming forward in the future. I do think that the underpinnings today are quite different and it’s pretty hard to make the case that this particular action would spur a future migration.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary’s 2016 Campaign is Ready, Hypothetically Speaking

Hillary Clinton
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to a crowd during a campaign stop to promote Democrats in re-election bids in the east Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo. on Oct. 21, 2014. David Zalubowski—AP

Would-be surrogates tried to make the case for Hillary without admitting she's running

Hillary Clinton is almost definitely, but not certainly, going to run for president and if she does, she’ll most likely be the strongest candidate, but she could totally still lose, so Democrats shouldn’t get cocky.

That was the awkward message from would-be Clinton surrogates who were among the several hundred politicos, fundraisers and activists who showed up for a “Ready For Hillary” convention in New York Friday.

At some moments, they seemed to fall over themselves insisting that the former Secretary of State’s ascendancy should not be considered “inevitable,” while at other moments they discussed in great detail the organizational structure, fundraising and messaging efforts that are already in place to buttress her 2016 campaign.

Former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez said that ambivalence as a result of the pummeling Clinton’s campaign received six years ago, when many Democrats considered her a shoo-in as the Democratic nominee.

“In 2008, we got eviscerated by a better campaign on the ground,” he explained. “Lessons have been learned. So there has been extraordinary preparation and it’s a very, very different, far more sophisticated operation that’s there and it’s ready for her, should she decide to run.”

Adam Parkhomenko, who founded the organizational group Ready for Hillary, which has spent the last two years collecting a database of roughly 3 million supporters, echoed the sentiment.

“I wouldn’t have been doing this since January 2013 if I thought she was inevitable,” he said. “We learned in 2008 she’s not inevitable. No one’s inevitable.”

Stephanie Schriock, the head of EMILY’s List, who is expected to play a major role in a future Clinton campaign, said she looks forward to a “healthy primary.”

“As everyone goes through a presidential primary process, it’ll be the candidate who make the case,” she said, adding that Clinton, while clearly the front-runner, will not be immune to that process. “There’s nothing inevitable about 2016.”

Meanwhile, several Clinton backers, including Schriock, former Obama campaign organizer Mitch Stewart, Correct the Record’s David Brock, and political strategist Chris Lehane, spoke directly about what organizations would have to work together on the ground to make a 2016 Clinton campaign most effective, what issues Clinton would be most likely to emphasize, and what message the campaign would be built around. All agreed that a hypothetical Clinton campaign will likely to focus on working class voters, who are feeling increasingly marginalized in today’s economy.

Clinton must project a vision for “economic opportunity for American families,” said Schriock. That’s a phrase she used, with slight variations, twice more during a half-hour talk with reporters. The campaign will likely focus on connecting with working class voters, women, Hispanics and the African American community over issues like equal pay, minimum wage and leveling the playing field for the middle class, she said.

Nina Turner, an Ohio state senator, said that a Clinton campaign could easily motivate key voting blocs, like the African American community, by staking progressive positions on issues like prison reform or creating more economic opportunities for the working poor. But, she said, “This is not about a coronation for anybody.”

Stewart agreed that “a hypothetical Clinton campaign” would have to focus primarily economic issues. “We have to come up with an economic message that shows working class voters that we’re on their side,” said Stewart.

When asked what issues would put Clinton in the strongest position against other potential Democratic contenders, such Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, or Jim Webb, who announced yesterday that he was exploring the possibility of running, Stewart demurred. “I’m not going to comment on any hypothetical candidate,” said Stewart, laughing. “Except my specific hypothetical candidate.”

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