Glorious Melting Pot … or Not
Best in Governance
Last week National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver came out with a decisive decision in response to odious remarks from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. In response to tape-recorded comments from Sterling released by the gossip website TMZ, Silver threw down the gauntlet to Sterling, suspending him for life from the NBA, fining him $2.5 million, and urging other NBA owners to oust him from ownership of the franchise. Silver’s quick action, forceful response, and ability to build consensus with league stakeholders was met with almost unanimous praise from current players, owners, commentators, and others across the league.
The furor over Sterling’s repulsive comments provided the relatively new NBA commissioner with a test of leadership and highlighted the challenges of governing within a membership organization. Many organizations can be difficult and cumbersome to lead, with a wide array of opinions from stakeholders, obstreperous personalities, and strict rules making governance a challenging process sometimes. Silver moved fast to forge a consensus with other owners , creating a basis for action based on a careful reading of league bylaws, and worked closely with Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento and the designated representative from the NBA players’ union. Silver’s powerful response was made easier thanks to the widely publicized nature of Sterling’s ugly comments, a contrast to the loathsome history of prior Sterling comments and accommodation of Sterling by previous NBA commissioner David Stern and the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP. While Sterling has a notoriously litigious reputation and may fight the commissioner’s plans for him to sell the Clippers, Silver’s response has strengthened the league and finally provided stern consequences to Sterling’s history of repugnant comments and discrimination.
Worst in Governance
Lack of Federal Action on Immigration Issues
Despite increasing calls for a comprehensive immigration solution, the prospects for a legislative solution remain dim. Members of Congress remain largely paralyzed on the subject, and bipartisan bickering has dominated the discussion, with most politicians preferring to avoid dealing with the polarizing issue until after the upcoming midterm elections. As a result, dissembling comments, like the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner’s description of immigration reform as “too hard” for members of his caucus, seem to be far more common than solutions to the problem of more than 11 million undocumented workers living in the shadows across the country.
President Barack Obama deserves some blame for failing to reach a consensus with Republican lawmakers and for overseeing an often-contradictory immigration infrastructure that has increasingly allowed immigration to become intertwined with national security and law enforcement concerns. During his five years in office, his administration has deported more than two million people, more than any president in history.
Recent action by states has only served to underscore the continuing failure of the federal government to move forward on substantive and lasting immigration reform. Rather than waiting for a federal compromise, states from New Jersey to California are not idly standing by. Last month, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced that students brought to this country as children (the so-called Dreamers) qualified for in-state tuition at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. And California enacted a portfolio of new laws aimed at undocumented residents of the state in 2014, including a law that enables these residents to apply for a driver’s license. In the absence of a guiding immigration policy or law outside of the president’s executive orders, California and other states have created laws ranging from sanctuary policies that limit local law enforcement personnel from asking about immigration status to in-state tuition benefits to undocumented students and in California, a law that allows undocumented immigrants to practice law. But until the federal government is able to pick up the slack, you can bet that states are likely to continue their patchwork attempts to resolve the immigration issue.