Is it a “Clash of Titans,” or a Titanic crash? President Barack Obama is about to test the limits of the U. S. Constitution-backed government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Immigration reform has created a deep political fissure in the country where one side favors reform and has for several years and another opposes it. Support comes from Democrats and Republicans, from Anglos, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians and registers overwhelmingly and consistently in national surveys.
Anti-reform people talk about enforcing outdated immigration law designed decades ago; i.e. they demand 100% deportation without answering how could we possibly deport 11-12 million people?
They talk about terrorists flooding across a “porous border” intending to frighten people miles and many states away from the border. They talk of rising crime, destruction of a sovereign United States and “invasion” by Brown Hordes with “scabies.”
On Election Day, 57% of American voters told Exit Pollsters for the major networks that they support immigration reform.
At this moment, however, the only people who count are House Republicans and the President of the United States, about 250 people not the majority of Americans that favor immigration reform.
The President says he is going to reform the immigration system by himself in the coming days by issuing an executive order that – according to the New York Times (NYT)- “protect” up to 4-5 million people from deportation who are here illegally based on length of time in the U.S., children who are U.S. citizens and a non-criminal status. The leaks also indicate that those working here should be granted work visas applied for by employers.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) call this “amnesty.” Without knowing the details we cannot comment on whether the Obama plan is “amnesty.” These men and their allies in Congress will campaign against the President’s plan as “amnesty” no matter what the details are.
Before the President unveils his plan to legalize by Executive Order, some history.
(1) In the Senate, Obama cast the deciding 2007 vote on a Labor-sponsored poison pill amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that originated out of the Bush White House. The bill died.
(2) As a Presidential candidate Obama promised that he would fix immigration in his first year in office. In his first and second years in office, Obama did nothing on immigration despite having huge Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.
(3) He could have passed reform in a month’s time, but he didn’t.
(4) When a bill to legalize those brought here illegally as children (DACA) passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, President Obama did nothing to help push it to 60 votes in the U.S. Senate that would have short-circuited any potential filibuster; enough Republicans voted to pass it to make it a bi-partisan bill but five Democrat Senators voted against it. Those five senators are retired or were defeated by voters. Obama never even made a phone call to those senators asking for or demanding their votes.
(5) Obama claimed that he would issue executive orders on immigration reform by the end of summer earlier this year. He didn’t. He declared he would issue the decree by the end of the year and made sure everyone knew he would do so after the November 4th election.
This blatant political move was recognized by voters who rejected Obama and his candidates in many, many congressional districts and states. Americans are not “stupid.”
Senate Majority Leader-to-be Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have both warned that the executive action contemplated will “poison the well” between the Republican controlled Congress and the White House. In essence, Mr. President, as John Boehner declares, there are many things a President needs from Congress and he is jeopardizing those needs by trying to outflank Congress.
Can the president issue Executive Orders? Yes, the courts have ruled since 1790 that the President has this power.
Can the President absolve people of coming to the country illegally, or defer deportation of such people? Yes, based on his exclusive power defined in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution; to wit: “he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States…” Citizenship is not required, only an “offense against the United States.”
Can the President change current immigration laws passed under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution that mandates Congress “Regulate commerce” and “establish a uniform rule of naturalization (immigration)? No, the courts will have to examine this proposed order and whether or not anyone who files a law suit asking to enjoin the President from enforcing such an order has standing to sue. The answer is probably no.
The President’s Executive Order threat is not timely (there is no emergency). It is legally suspect and most certainly will politically destroy Obama’s last two years in office. Hispanics will not save him for he cannot run for re-election and those that love him don’t write history books.
Author and syndicated columnist Raoul Lowery Contreras formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times.