Sunday, November 23, 2014

Obama's Execution of Immigration Policy

This is a commentary on President Obama’s Nov. 21st, 2014 announcement of an executive order on immigration policy.  The most contentious element was his formalizing the intent to concentrate prosecutions on the most serious and dangerous cases, forbearing prosecutions of some cases which could be inhumane to the defendants and/or their families.   I noted in a Facebook post that Ronald Reagan had acted on immigration in a similar manner in 1986, and then I got a couple of well-reasoned and solidly-founded comments, condemning Obama’s action.  They sent me to researching the topic, and I found that I still agree with Obama’s action, but now I am confident that it is not only best for the nation, but quite legal and proper.

It is true that in 1986 Reagan signed a bill, whereas Obama is using and executive order, but Obama is both upholding the spirit of legislation already passed, and faithfully choosing to concentrate limited prosecutorial resources on the most egregious and dangerous cases.  On CNN's State of the Union,  Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, "Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that is national security, it's cultural and it's economic. The Senate has done this three times."  In other words, the (Republican) Speaker of the House has stalled a bill the Senate passed, by refusing to bring it to the floor for debate and vote.  Obama must therefore enforce existing law to the best of his ability, and he has used an executive order to clarify his decisions about how he can best do so.
Timothy Sandefur criticizes Obama here, yet also admits that, “A president faced with limited resources who chooses to prosecute only the severest crimes the budget will allow, is faithfully taking care that the laws be executed.”  Sandefur clearly refutes his own complaint, making it obvious that his issue is not with Obama's legal action, but with Obama as a representative of forward thinking and fairness to all.  Therefore, we see that Obama has merely formalized a policy which he is bound BY LAW to implement.

It is also noteworthy that the restrictions on immigration by present law are considered unconstitutional by strict constructionists, including many of those squawking about the President’s executive order.  Until 1889,  Congress did not have a general power to restrict immigration, so Obama’s restraint in enforcing these laws makes good, conservative sense.  I understand the complaints against this executive order, and find them groundless.  I agree that we must not allow scofflaws to circumvent our laws, nor disrespect legal immigrants. (Here's a blog post from 2009)  I do not find that Obama’s recent action encourages that, but rather implements existing law in the best manner possible, until Congress gets off their duffs.