Are you, like me, pro-immigrant and in favor of a path to legal residency for illegal immigrants? If you are, you nevertheless must understand that President Obama’s use of executive action in this matter undermines what’s left of our Constitution, and this is a far greater evil than the problem he is trying to address.
Obama claims he’s frustrated by the failure of Congress to pass legislation to give many of the estimated 12 million “undocumented” immigrants a way to legitimize their residency and perhaps even become citizens. Thus, he has announced that he will act unilaterally to achieve this goal using executive powers he claims to have, power he declared dozens of times until recently that he didn’t have. And he challenges the Republican Congress to send him an acceptable bill that deals with the immigration situation.
Obama’s order specifies that he will defer prosecution of undocumented immigrants so they will need not fear deportation if they have children who were born here or are legal residents, are able to pass a criminal background check, and can meet other conditions.
Interestingly, one condition is that they have been here for at least five years. But how will undocumented individuals without stamped passports, social security cards or other legal documentation be able to document their statuses? No doubt Obama’s operatives will mandate that the mere assertion of having been here for half a decade, or the most dubious documentation will be sufficient.
Critics point out that Obama’s failure to seek reform legislation when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress is proof that his current executive action is a disingenuous political stunt. They argue that Obama wants to legalize immigrants so they can become staunch supporters of the Democratic Party in exchange for every manner of welfare state handouts. The critics are probably right.
But whatever Obama’s motives, Republicans are wrong and, indeed, seem mean-spirited to deny the virtues of immigrants, whether legal or not. Most come here to better their lives through hard work. That is, indeed, the American spirit that we should celebrate.
Republicans are wrong and, indeed, seem mean-spirited to deny the virtues of immigrants
Those who complain that illegals broke the law because they didn’t even try to go through the dysfunctional American immigration system should direct their anger at the system, not the immigrants.
Obama rightly points out that it’s unrealistic to expect the government to round up and deport millions of illegal immigrants. Something must be done.
So are Obama’s actions justified?
Ask yourself this. What would a liberal Democrat (perhaps you, dear reader!) say of a president (probably a Republican!) who asserts executive authority to order the IRS to cease prosecution of anyone accused of tax evasion? What if such a president argued that the tax code is corrupt beyond redemption? It has thousands of pages of special interest loopholes. It takes an army of attorneys and accountants to sort through its contradictory, convoluted clauses. Its “progressive” rate system is a malicious, envy-based punishment of the most productive and prosperous individuals for the “sin” of being productive. And its enforcement arm, the IRS, has become a vehicle for presidents like Obama to punish political enemies.
President Obama’s use of executive action in this matter undermines what’s left of our Constitution.
My first instinct (I’m not a liberal Democrat) would be to stand up and cheer: “Got you, you rotten statist bastards! No more loot for you!!”
But the more sober me would understand that such executive action would undermine and help destroy the separation of powers and checks and balances system set up by our Founders. That would be an evil that, in the long run, could be even worse than the current tax system. And that’s pretty bad.
Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, you need to understand that the rule of law and constitutional limits on political power are essential to a free society. Imagine the horrific instability of abandoning the rule of law for the whims of a capacious ruler. A new president reinstates the immigration rules suspended by Obama, makes them even harsher, and suspends collection of all corporate taxes. A later president suspends the enforcement of all drug laws and reinstates corporate taxes with penalties and late fees for those who didn’t pay because of the prior suspension.
Frankly, a state with wide authority to control every aspect of our lives is the liberal Democrat aim. But what will you, dear Dem, do when a conservative Republican president that uses the sword Obama is forging to go after some of the personal liberties—mostly ones involving sex—that you still support?
It’s even tempting for limited government advocates to wonder whether it’s time of a future president like a Rand Paul to use the accumulated power of the executive as a meat cleaver to chop the state down to size. But I say not yet.
Republicans should join with Democrats and Obama to work out a legislative solution to the immigration problem, not an executive one. But all parties must understand that if Obama’s executive actions stand, the stage will be set for future abuses by presidents of both parties.
Four Facts for Conservatives about Immigration Policy , Edward Hudgins
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.