There certainly is wide enough room for thoughtful and well-meaning people to disagree about the appropriate approach to the presence in the United States of millions of people who have come here illegally. But those same thoughtful Americans should be very concerned with President Obama’s unilateral amendment of federal law in this regard. It is yet another indication that the president believes no federal asset is unavailable to him in his reelection bid and that he has a presumptive monopoly on knowing what is right for America.
Despite federal laws providing for the deportation of illegal immigrants, the president last week issued an executive order that generally will allow illegal immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16 and are younger than 30 to remain here without fear of deportation. Yet Congress has repeatedly refused to amend the law to adopt such a policy. And last year Mr. Obama himself rejected the importuning of immigration activists in this regard, saying the matter was beyond his authority:
With respect to the notion that I could suspend deportations though executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed and…the executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws and then the judiciary has to interpret the law. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.
Not a few commentators have pointed out that while the president has the authority under certain circumstances to refuse to enforce what he believes to be an unconstitutional law and to prioritize prosecutions because of limited resources, nobody is arguing that the immigration laws are unconstitutional, nor can he unilaterally carve out an exemption from the coverage of a law for an arbitrarily configured category of people.
Particularly disturbing are the blatantly political motivations of the president and his obvious attitude that everything goes. Even The New York Times, usually supportive of Mr. Obama to a fault, noted the politics of the executive order: “In many ways, President Obama’s unilateral shift in immigration policy was a bluntly political move, a play for a key voting bloc in the states that will decide whether he gets another term.”
Most chilling, though, is the president’s rationale that his actions “were the right thing for the American people,” as if that is a one-dimensional proposition to be determined by him alone. Indeed, here is what a White House official said:
We work to achieve our policy goals in the most effective and appropriate way possible. Often times, Congress has blocked efforts and we look to pursue other appropriate means of achieving our policy goals. Sometimes this makes for less-than-ideal policy situations – such as the action we took on immigration – but the president isn’t going to be stonewalled by politics, he will pursue whatever means available to do business on behalf of the American people.
This all bears careful consideration as we approach the November election.