Gary Johnson will end drug war, halt deportations if elected president
The Libertarian Party presidential candidate wants to use aggressive means to end deportations for many undocumented immigrants.
Remember Gary Johnson?
It’s been over six months since Johnson bowed out of the running for the Republican presidential nomination and his campaign left little to be remembered. Johnson only garnered single-digit support in the polls and his lasting mark from the two debates he was allowed to participate in was an adapted Rush Limbaugh joke about dog poop.
But Johnson is seeking to leave that past behind, forging ahead as the Libertarian Party’s standard bearer. Johnson’s name will appear on the presidential ballot in all 50 states and he’s managed to stay in the media spotlight, paying a recent visit to the “Daily Show.”
Despite a growing sense of disillusionment about politics, especially among young voters, Johnson remains confronted by the fact that there appears to be little appetite for his third-party candidacy.
But the former New Mexico governor is attempting to attract voters who are disenchanted with President Obama and Mitt Romney.
During his GOP primary run, Johnson became known (some would say pigeonholed) for his support for marijuana legalization. But the candidate wants voters to focus on his whole platform, a smaller government, greater civil liberties, ending the drug war, and a more permissive policy towards the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants.
Johnson hopes that his stance on immigration provides an opening to greater support from Latinos, many of whom consider it a sensitive cultural issue and have been disappointed by Obama and Romney’s handling of the issue.
“This is an issue that the other two candidates aren’t addressing,” he told Univision News. “I’m the only candidate talking about real immigration reform … I’m the only candidate talking about ending the drug war and balancing the budget by 2013.
“I’d like to be viewed as someone who’s got the whole book,” he added.
Johnson’s proposal is not novel, but it is bold. It would end deportations of undocumented immigrants for whom it would cause “extreme hardship,” such as the parents of children born in the U.S. or who those were brought to the country as minors.
Through his executive authority, Johnson says that he would authorize his administration to make broad use of a provision in immigration law called “parole-in-place” in order to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who came as minors or who have lived in the country “for many years,” which would allow them to work legally in the U.S.
The administration used the “parole-in-place” process in 2010 for undocumented immigrant family members of military servicemen and women to gain legal status, but it triggered a significant political backlash led by Republican members of Congress.
Johnson said he would also “defer” the deportations of undocumented immigrants who are in removal proceedings but would be eligible for relief under the stalled DREAM Act (some students seeking a higher education or military service). Deferrals would also apply to those living in the U.S. since 1996.
The ex-governor traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to discuss his sweeping plan with over two dozen Latino leaders at a roundtable organized by the National Puerto Rican Coalition, though he said he didn’t expect any endorsements as a result of the meeting.
Johnson’s radical approach is similar to the approach favored by some Democratic lawmakers and immigration reform advocacy groups, such as America’s Voice and the National Immigration Law Center, which have prodded President Obama to take more robust administrative action on immigration.
Obama hasn’t shown an appetite to use executive power in a broader way. While addressing Latino protesters demanding an executive order on immigration last July, the president suggested that enacting elements of comprehensive immigration reform without Congress would break democratic principles of government. Obama has pledged to take up comprehensive reform during his presidency.
“Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform,” Obama said at a National Council of La Raza luncheon in Washington, D.C. “But … that’s not how our system works.”
The White House, cognizant of gripes from immigration groups that a record number of people have been deported under Obama, has also highlighted its administrative efforts to adjust its focus on deporting criminals.
But the administration has only suspended 2 percent of nearly 300,000 deportation cases reviewed under the initiative, according to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney said in January that he would implement a tough immigration enforcement policy that would encourage undocumented immigrants to “self-deport” to their home countries.
That approach is backed by many anti-immigration groups, but it angered many Latinos and caused political observers to question whether Romney was jeopardizing his chance to win over Latinos.
Johnson, who left office in New Mexico nearly a decade ago, says his position on immigration is informed by his experience as governor of a border state that is now 46 percent Latino and has traditionally taken a softer approach toward dealing with undocumented immigrants. He says he saw firsthand how immigrants of all stripes contributed to his state’s economy.
“In New Mexico, we were getting the absolute cream of the crop,” he said. “I gained an appreciation for how hard-working immigrants are who come into the country. They just want to work hard and get ahead.”
Johnson acknowledged that his go-it-alone approach on immigration might have ruffled the feathers of some in the Libertarian movement who favor a more open immigration system, but not circumventing Congress to accomplish it. But he’s standing by his guns.
“What I’ve always said is that there are three branches of government. Each branch is always trying to assert itself over the other three. I’m not going to do away with executive orders because all of my executive orders are going to be the right executive orders,” he responded. “Every president does it, I’m going to be like every other president.”
Johnson added that “by doing this administratively, you’re putting pressure on Congress to actually get something done.”
Although his chances of winning in November range from slim to none, the former governor said that he hopes Latino voters will seriously consider supporting him in part because he says he won’t “demagogue issues around immigration.”
“I just want them to take a look at me,” he said. “Take a look at the whole package and see if it really isn’t offering up [what you’re looking for].”
(Photo: Flickr, Gage Skidmore)