Last night, President Obama spoke to the American people about an Executive Action that he was taking to deal with America’s immigration mess. Conservatives are apoplectic because the president is taking actions that the American Congress has refused to take – i.e., he is legalizing (a) almost four million illegal immigrants who are parents of American citizens and (b) several hundred thousand more who came here as children.
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a legal memorandum – “The Department of Homeland Security’s Authority to Prioritize Removal of Certain Aliens Unlawfully Present in the United States and to Defer Removal of Others” – explaining why the president’s action is not an illegal abrogation of congressional powers. Essentially, it says that temporarily deferring action for some illegal immigrants is a reasonable use of executive discretion. Interestingly, the memo makes a distinction between deferring action against the illegal-immigrant parents of children born in America (sometimes called anchor babies) and the parents of DREAMERS (illegal-immigrant children who were previously granted deferred action under DACA by President Obama):
- “The decision to grant deferred action to DACA parents thus seems to depend critically on the earlier decision to make deferred action available to their children. But we are aware of no precedent for using deferred action in this way, to respond to humanitarian needs rooted in earlier exercises of deferred action.” [Wouldn’t it be ironic if DREAMERS, who were granted deferred action because, as minors, they weren’t personally culpable for their illegal entry, could serve as an anchor for their parents, who were in fact culpable for their illegal entry?]
My initial inclination is to join the partisan outrage against this unilateral action by our newest Imperial President, but I must admit that ever since I ran for Congress in 2010, I have supported immigration reform that would include legalization of illegal immigrants who have lived in America for 5-10 years. Although these people initially came to America illegally, legalization is fair because our country has allowed them to establish roots. President Obama’s action did not go as far I would if I were emperor for a day.
But neither is President Obama emperor. He may be empowered as the chief executive to prioritize his efforts against illegal immigration, but in my opinion he isn’t empowered to legalize (work permits, etc.) illegal immigrants.
Ed Gillespie, who almost pulled off the senatorial upset of 2014, issued an op-ed piece today in the NY Times suggesting that the new GOP Congress needs to not just repeal ObamaCare, but also needs to pass an ObamaCare alternative. I suggest they should do the same with respect to immigration. And if President Obama vetoes it, the 2016 election can be a referendum.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more policy arguments and less obstruction and dysfunction?