Op-ed: A blow against unilateral government

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Sunday, June 26, 2016 4:13pm
  • Opinion

Critics of Donald Trump worry what would happen if a man with little regard for the Constitution and a willingness to impose his personal will on a hot-button issue like immigration became president.

This isn’t a far-fetched scenario — in fact, it has already happened. A deadlocked Supreme Court let stand a lower-court order blocking President Barack Obama’s unilateral bid to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in a wholly outrageous violation of our constitutional norms.

President Obama’s order was so flagrantly lawless that he had repeatedly denied he had the power to act on his own — until he did.

The “deferred action” program in question granted amnesty to the illegal-immigrant parents of U.S.-born children and expanded a previous executive amnesty for illegal immigrants who came here before age 16. The administration claimed the program was merely an exercise in prosecutorial discretion. In reality, it was a new legal dispensation, giving a broad category of illegal immigrants work permits, Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses, among other benefits.

In his huffy remarks after the Supreme Court decision, Obama said that when Congress refused to act on so-called comprehensive immigration reform, he “was left with little choice but to take steps within my existing authority to make our immigration system smarter, fairer and more just.” But there is no clause in the Constitution giving the president power to legislate in the absence of congressional enactments. The president’s own sweeping description of the supposed benefits of his action — a smarter, fairer, more just system — implies its breadth.

It certainly doesn’t sound like a mere act of discretion around the edges — and it isn’t. The appeals court noted that nearly 150 pages of instructions were issued on how to carry out the president’s previous executive amnesty, and only about 5 percent of more than 700,000 applications were denied. The president of the union representing the immigration workers charged with processing those applications said the Department of Homeland Security worked to ensure that they were “rubber-stamped.” President Obama himself had said that DHS officials who didn’t implement his latest edict would face “consequences.” So much for discretion.

In his post-decision statement, President Obama referred to our “broken” immigration system, a favorite cliche of supporters of amnesty. The brokenness of the system, though, is largely a function of the long-standing refusal by the federal government to enforce our immigration laws. If we didn’t enforce our tax or environment laws, they’d be broken, too.

President Obama is said by his critics on the open-borders left to be the Deporter-in-Chief, but this is a misnomer wrapped in an act of statistical legerdemain. The Obama administration began counting deportations differently to get the numbers up. President Obama himself has admitted that this accounting gimmick is misleading. The truth is that interior enforcement has been gutted. John Sandweg, former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has said, “If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero.” Even the deportation of criminal aliens, supposedly the priority of the administration, has been declining.

The assurance that President Obama issued after the Supreme Court decision that enforcement priorities won’t change is certainly correct — the enforcement priority will continue to be nonenforcement.

The conventional wisdom is that better border controls and a weak economy have checked the flow of illegal immigrants, but the numbers are beginning to tell a different story. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, illegal immigration in 2014 and 2015 — with other countries picking up the slack from Mexico — is significantly up from the level of the prior two years. Overall, the number of new legal and illegal immigrants is now higher than before the 2007 recession.

No matter how highhanded President Obama has been in defying the separation of powers to get his way on immigration, an even more lawless president beckons. Hillary Clinton has pledged to go even further.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More in Opinion

Nurse Sherra Pritchard gives Madyson Knudsen a bandage at the Kenai Public Health Center after the 10-year-old received her first COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: A mom’s and pediatrician’s perspective on COVID-19 vaccines for children

I want to see children and their parents who have yet to get vaccinated roll up their sleeves.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.