President plays politics with power grab on immigration
Less than three weeks after the midterm elections, President Obama addressed the nation with a new plan on immigration.
Rather than building bipartisan support in Congress and the nation for comprehensive immigration reform, he announced he would use sweeping executive action to grant legal status to nearly five million illegal immigrants.
I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants and continue to be a strong supporter of measures to secure our borders.
In addition, most Americans agree that Congress must address the issue of what to do with undocumented persons already residing in the United States. Our immigration system is broken – a fact acknowledged by both political parties.
With this power grab, however, President Obama is undermining the democratic process that could lead to substantive consensus reforms.
Governing by Administrative Fiat
The President’s executive overreach also blatantly ignores the call for change that Americans validated at the polls on November 4. No matter his frustrations or political aims, President Obama cannot single-handedly rewrite the law because he disagrees with it. Lawmaking is delegated solely to Congress by the Constitution. Governing by administrative fiat usurps the power of the legislative branch.
This is not the first time that the Obama Administration has abused executive power.
In early 2012, the President made unconstitutional appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor Relations Board. The appointments were later challenged in the courts, and all nine Supreme Court justices ruled that the President had acted outside of his legal authority. Likewise, the Supreme Court ruled against the Administration because of controversial mandates in the health-care law that limited the religious liberty of employers like Hobby Lobby.
Sidestepping the Constitution
It is disappointing that the President has repeatedly used his pulpit to threaten unilateral action.
In June, he promised to “fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own.” At the beginning of the year, he said, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone, and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.” The President has made it clear he is determined to pursue his agenda, regardless of whether it means bypassing Congress or trampling on the Constitution.
One wonders, however, why immigration was not part of the agenda when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress with super-majorities in 2009 and 2010. The President could have proposed an immigration bill for consideration in the same way he championed a costly health-care law and massive overhaul of the financial system.
Reinforcing Executive Oversight
Concerns have already been raised that President Obama’s actions will set a dangerous precedent for future administrations, in addition to eroding our system of checks and balances.
Congress has an obligation to do what it can to rein in the executive branch, potentially through the appropriations process or alternative legislation. The courts are certain to have their say on the matter as well.
Immigration policy has a significant impact on Americans’ lives, from its effect on states’ rights to economic growth.
It should be crafted, debated, and voted on by lawmakers elected to serve as a voice for the American people.
In acting alone, the Administration is prioritizing politics over representative democracy.
By Roger Wicker