Rumor has it that President Obama will deliver our next constitutional crisis, and the effective end of American immigration law, in a splashy Las Vegas ceremony on Friday, preceded by a prime-time address to the nation on Thursday. If you are a law-abiding legal immigrant or native-born citizen, particularly a low-skill worker looking to get back into the shrunken U.S. workforce, there is no reason to watch either of these presentations, because Barack Obama has nothing to say to you.
Before the election, Obama was keen to get Republican fingerprints on amnesty for illegal aliens, but now he seems hell-bent on doing it unilaterally, and illegally. It was only a few days ago that Obama magnanimously offered to throw his executive orders in the wastebasket, if the victorious Republican Party would simply give him everything he wants. He didn’t even give them time to capitulate, which hardly seems sporting.
Obama seems very dedicated to the idea that Presidents get more powerful when they lose elections, with the second historic midterm defeat conferring dictatorial powers. In 2008, as a Senator, he excoriated George W. Bush for “trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all,” vowing to reverse the process if he became President. In 2011, he told the National Council of La Raza (one of those explicitly racist organizations that is super-duper-okay because of which race it promotes) that it was “tempting” to bypass Congress and change the law on his own, but he couldn’t, because “that’s not how our democracy functions, that’s not how our Constitution is written.” It looks like Barack Obama’s reverence for constitutional democracy undergoes dramatic erosion every three years.
The American people are, of course, completely out of the loop on this. Obama dropped hints to a core group of activist supporters about his plans on Wednesday morning, but one of them screwed up and forwarded it to some reporters, so the cat got out of the bag a bit early. It was successfully kept under wraps until after Election Day, which is all that really matters.
It has been suggested that Obama should be careful about expanding imperial powers that the next Republican president might use, in ways that dismay the Left. I don’t think he’s terribly worried about that:
— John Hayward (@Doc_0) November 19, 2014
— John Hayward (@Doc_0) November 19, 2014
In other words, all of the things a conservative President might do with executive orders will encounter furious resistance from entrenched interests and the media that services them, because every apple cart that could be upended by such an order has a lot of people riding in it. I’m not just talking about pure government dependents, either. Some of the people riding in those apple carts are very well-heeled. The apple carts have first-class sections for cronies and rent-seekers, with beverage service, extra leg room, and seats upholstered in fine Corinthian leather. They’re really big apple carts.
Obama’s action is premised on his conviction that American citizenship has no such powerful defenders. The people who care deeply about the issue are already pushing all of the other apple carts. They’ll be angry about what Obama does to immigration law, but there will be many opportunities to distract, seduce, and subdue them between now and Election Day 2016. Obama has calculated, on this and many other issues, that no significant base of ardent support for the rule of law exists in America any more… but people do want their government-funded lollipops, and they’ll wig out if his successor tries to use imperial executive power to take them away, egged on by the exact same people who are currently defending King Barack’s royal decrees. One of the basic tenets of “progressivism” is that the expansion of government power is irreversible, because the cost of taking something away from the State’s favorite constituents will always be portrayed as too high, while the liberty taken from others is valued too cheaply.
Unilateral amnesty is a huge expansion of government power. The ability to waive laws for favored constituents is one of the purest expressions of power available to the Ruling Class. It’s power completely unfettered from responsibility. (As Michelle Malkin trenchantly notes, Obama’s executive orders will also relieve his Administration of the irritating duty of prosecuting identity theft, which will be broadly tolerated from Obama’s preferred constituents.) Power bound by law is the weakest variety, because it comes with duties and responsibilities the government must fulfill. Waving aside laws on behalf of special interests generates gratitude and relieves the Ruling Class of the burden associated with enforcing the discarded law – something illustrated very clearly by the amnesty debate, in which Obama and his fellow travelers routinely insist that immigration law is effectively impossible to enforce. That’s why we’re supposed to give up trying. Keep that in mind when you hear flapdoodle from amnesty apologists about how they’re going to keep the border secure and cut down on illegal immigration from here on out, you betcha, we won’t need another amnesty like this ever, pinky swear. Those are the exact same promises the last amnesty was sold with.
In what appears to be an uncomfortable coincidence, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson just told a National Press Club meeting that another spike in illegal immigration could be on tap, and he wasn’t even factoring Obama’s new amnesty giveaway into that prediction; he said it would be due to seasonal shifts and the U.S. economy picking up. You won’t believe how broad and deep that tide becomes when word gets out that the Coyote-in-Chief is handing out amnesty, not to mention the staggering “chain migration” caused by tossing around millions of de facto citizenship papers. Are we really going to suffer through another idiotic charade where the Administration pretends that everyone who floods across the border after the biggest waiver of immigration law in history is “misunderstanding” the policy?
The Washington Times also reports Johnson claimed he’s “made major progress in combatting the surge of illegal immigrant children that wrong-footed his department earlier this year.” Is that so? Can we see a tally of how many of them you’ve deported to their home countries, and how they were shipped there, Secretary Johnson? I guess they do think we’re stupid enough to swallow the same old excuses when the next human wave surges into Texas.
We’re also going to hear a lot more of the Gruber-style lie that Obama’s executive action is merely something Ronald Reagan and George Bush did before him, a talking point efficiently debunked by Jeffrey Lord at Conservative Review. (Short version: Reagan didn’t write a new law with imperial powers, as Obama proposes to do; he signed a bill passed by Congress, and both he and Bush acted in accordance with the statute. Also, it’s worth noting that in those cases, the results were entirely different than what amnesty activists promised, which is why we’re up to 10 or 11 million illegals now.) Among the sources cited by Lord is Judge Andrew Napolitano, who explains things so clearly that only willful mendacity explains the survival of the “Reagan and Bush did it too” canard:
When [Obama] suspends deportations, and when he imposes his own conditions on those suspensions, he’s effectively re-writing the law. And that violates his oath to enforce and uphold the law as it’s been written. The American people, the Congress and the courts need to know that we have a president who will enforce the law. When he says ‘I will not enforce the law because I don’t like it or I’m impatient’, that doesn’t wash under the Constitution.
Every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has suspended some deportations. President Reagan did it to 100,000 families. He did it on the basis of the 1986 statute enacted by the Congress. President George H.W.Bush did it for 1.5 million people, only about 350,000 took advantage of it, and it was based on his interpretation of the statute. President Obama does not re-interpret a statute. He takes a statute and says ‘I’m going to disregard it. I’m going to give you a better one. I’m going to set down a set of standards that I would have written had I been the law maker.’ He’s not the law maker, he’s the law enforcer.’
Which brings us back to that pesky “rule of law” business. There is no reason the people of the United States, acting through their elected representatives in the legislature, could not waive immigration law and throw the borders completely open, or waive immigration law for everyone currently residing on U.S. soil. (Obama’s amnesty will be more arbitrary than that, at least on paper, at first.) There is also no reason Congress could not essentially seal the borders, set stiffer rules for deportation (say, as stiff as Mexico’s) and reduce legal immigration to nearly zero. Both of those possibilities must be equally acceptable under the fabric of constitutional self-government, provided the rule of law is obeyed, and the proper legislative procedure is followed. Both of those outcomes are equally unacceptable as an expression of imperial executive fiat. Would anyone currently defending Obama’s amnesty agenda support the precisely equivalent exercise of “executive discretion” to aggressively deport more people, in defiance of the law?
The answer to that question tells you everything you need to know about the “principles” of amnesty supporters, whose only real principle is that they don’t believe the existing citizens of the United States should have anything to say about who accesses our job market, social programs, and political systems. And once that right is stripped from American citizens, what other powers will they retain for long?