WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the Department of Homeland Security's recent announcement about deportation of illegal immigrants in the Rose Garden at the White House June 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. With the DREAM Act unable to gain traction in Congress, Obama announced that his administration would stop deporting some young people who came to U.S. as children of illegal immigrants. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Updated: July 20, 2012 6:15AM
‘A government of laws, not of men” was John Adams’ prescription to Americans for preserving liberty, democracy and self-government. Someone should point that out to the legions of people praising President Barack Obama for his new policy to stop deportation enforcement against illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.
First off, I agree with the goal of Obama’s policy; we need to find a way to integrate into society young people who were brought here by their parents and who are, in Obama’s words, “Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.” Actually I favor comprehensive immigration reform that would safeguard the borders, establish a rational guest worker program and deal fairly with the millions of undocumented people in the country — the kind of legislation that President George W. Bush pushed in 2007 and that Obama helped torpedo, the kind that Obama talks about a lot but has never presented to Congress during his time in the White House.
In fact, many of the objectives Obama advanced in his Friday announcement are incorporated in legislation being formulated by Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida.
And in fact, as recently as a year ago the president himself said he did not have the constitutional authority to do an end run around Congress to achieve the very policy he announced Friday. What changed in a year’s time? Politics. Obama is locked in a tight presidential race with Mitt Romney and Republicans can be excused for seeing Obama’s action as trying to upstage Rubio and to appeal to the Hispanic voters to whom Obama had so often promised to push immigration reform but never did.
As I said, the goal is worthy. But ends, however worthy, do not justify the means. Democrats celebrating Obama’s coup — and coup seems to be the right word in the context of usurping the role of Congress — should remember that the nation will have a Republican president at some point in the future, maybe as soon as 2013. Are they comfortable with Obama establishing the precedent of a president deciding which laws to enforce based on political considerations? If Obama’s health-care law is preserved by the Supreme Court, and Romney is elected president but can’t get Congress to repeal ObamaCare, would Democrats be happy with him deciding not to enforce parts of it?
This is not the first time Obama has thumbed his nose at Congress. He went to war in Libya without so much as a by-the-way to the institution endowed by the Constitution with the power to declare hostilities. When his “card check” bill to do away with the secret ballot to determine union representation couldn’t get by lawmakers, Obama’s National Labor Relations Board rewrote the rules to grease the way for unions. Obama abused the power of recess appointments to place in high office individuals he didn’t want to have to go through that pesky process of “advice and consent” empowered by the Constitution in the Senate.
Obama made headlines when he was caught by an open microphone appealing to the Russian president to cut him some slack on foreign policy issues until after his “last election” when he would have more “flexibility.” You have to wonder how he would use that “flexibility” on domestic issues when the congressional representatives of voters didn’t bend to his will during a second term.