If the reports are correct, President Obama will order green cards, work permits and deportation stays for some five million illegally present in the United States. His speech is due shortly after this writing; we cannot be sure. But that is our subject here.
Republicans are gleefully replaying earlier Presidential statements to the effect that as a President, rather than an emperor of the U.S, he lacks the authority for such actions as he is said to be announcing tonight. The Prez ought to know; he was an attorney until he gave up his law license under threat of administrative sanctions in Illinois.
So we face two significant questions, it seems to us. First, why is he doing this? He has ignored action on immigration for some six years already. We don’t know of course, but we note this is the most political of Presidents, the first to wield the office from a steady series of public speeches and television appearances more reminiscent of campaigning than of governing, at least among his predecessors. We assume that he sees political advantage in this step, as that has seemed the preeminent motive of most of his Presidential actions to date. We’ll explore that in a bit.
The overwhelming question remaining, is what is his authority for his action? Republicans (naturally) question it, so do some Democrats. We cannot know the truth of this until some judge informs us, but this is how it appears to us tonight:
The Constitution clearly awards to the Congress, the authority to make the laws, to the President, the authority to execute them. That is why he is called: “Chief Executive.” In the present instance, Congress has specified that undocumented foreigners are present in the U.S. illegally and from there, gone on to outline the procedures for arresting and deporting such folk. As President, Barack Obama is charged and has duly sworn, to faithfully do so. A President who refuses to execute the laws is overreaching his authority and may become a proper subject for impeachment.
However, as bureaucrats in Washington cannot be expected to provide workable rules for every event that may occur in every corner of a great nation, the Chief Executive is provides considerable scope for discretion in his enforcement of laws. Congress, even farther removed from the scenes of action, will normally not question the Presidential discretion in his work.
The key legal point here, is that the discretion is intended to forward the execution of the laws. It has no other reason to be granted. In the instant case, we understand that the President will claim executive discretion as his basis for effectively if not exactly providing amnesty to the five million undocumanted, hence illegal, souls. That exceeds 40% of those estimated to be in the United States.
So the legal question is: Is the President furthering the intent of the immigration law on the books by his exercise of executive discretion, or is he thwarting its clear intent? Only the presiding judge can tell us for sure but it seems to us, that he is trying to circumvent the present law. If that is correct, he is exceeding his Constitutional powers as we see things.
As stated: A judge will have to answer that. How quickly or slowly that occurs will be telling. For example, if the Republicans would in fact, prefer success for the presidential end run but care not say so in public, they could defer to the court and hope that the case required years. Worried Constitutionalists might accelerate things to minimize a crisis in government. We must await reality.
Politically, it’s a win-win for Democrats, seems to us (maybe why he’s doing it?). The Prez becomes a hero to his base, the other Democrats can cheer him on or complain as best suits their needs and the GOP can obtain the amnesty-of-sorts that it too desires while acting unhappy. What’s not to like? If you’re a politician rather than an American voter, anyway. Ok, and a few million more Latino voters will be new Democrats. Almost forgot that …
There is naturally, always a snag. Here, it is that the Republican majority in the next Congress can simply defund the Presidntial plan, stopping it dead. This will require some heavy ignoring by the media if the GOP is to have its needed cover, as at present they appear to have forgotten that. And should it arise, the Prez will come up with egg on his face. Nothing heroic in that scenario. Maybe it won’t come up? Maybe some judge will rule that Presidents may now rule by decree? Who knows, these days?
But it’s a full-blown Constitutional crisis shaping up and it’s a hell of a show!ial