By Taylor Armerding
The Hendricks County Flyer
Tue Jul 03, 2012, 03:20 PM EDT
Consider a thought experiment.
Imagine that the U.S. Supreme Court some day finds, among the penumbras and emanations of the Constitution, that the Founding Fathers bestowed the natural right of gay marriage upon the nation. It therefore votes to invalidate the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which declares that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Then imagine that some of the governors of states that have voted to ban gay marriage say they will defy the ruling and continue to ban it.
And then imagine that President Obama issues a declaration that there will be no federal sanctions on those states for breaking the law, at least for the next two years because, after all, their voters acted in good faith, they were sincere in their beliefs, and "it will be good for the country."
You know what would happen. "All hell" would be too quiet a term to describe what would break loose. Gays and lesbians and their advocates would occupy not only the statehouses of those rebellious states but the U.S. Capitol as well. There would be lawsuits flying everywhere, demanding that the federal government enforce the law because, after all, we're a nation of laws, not men.
Obama would do no such thing, of course. He would treat this particular court decision as holy writ (Its decision on Obamacare might be another matter). Any state that refused to comply with the ruling would feel the full weight and wrath of the federal government. And the president would thunder as well, without even needing help from his teleprompter, that we are a nation of laws, not men.
Or, to paraphrase The Dude, "This insubordination will not stand, man."
It's not just a thought experiment, though - it is happening. It's just that it's about immigration instead of gay marriage. When it comes to enforcing federal immigration laws, the president views them as optional. He can enforce them, even bend them, based on his view of what he thinks will be good for the country, not to mention a few million more Latino votes in a re-election campaign.
The president was careful not to do this by executive order, which could have been struck down. Instead, a memo from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano states that illegal immigrants who were younger than 16 when brought to the U.S. by their parents or guardians, will not risk deportation - at least for the next two years (well into the next presidential term). By granting them this status, it also grants them the right to apply for work authorizations to which they would not otherwise be entitled.
This, from the constitutional law professor who told the National Council of La Raza last year, "The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written."
Gee, what changed? The Constitution? Or the possibility that the votes in November might not be to Obama's liking?
Before getting into the multiple things wrong with this, could we please dispense with the diversionary charge that anyone who opposes this is anti-immigrant. Opposition to this is no more anti-immigrant than being opposed to unlicensed drivers is anti-driver, or opposing "undocumented" physicians is anti-doctor. It is a ludicrous claim.
On the substantive issues, it is true that the young people affected were brought here as minors "through no fault of their own," as we are constantly told. But it is the fault of those who brought them, and they should bear the burden of solving that problem. It is not the fault of the U.S. or its immigration laws.
There is nothing wrong, or illegal, about the president and the Department of Homeland Security making these young people (except those who commit crimes) a lower priority for enforcement. As has been pointed out, cops don't pull over the driver doing 65 in a 55 mph zone when there's somebody tooling along at 85.
But to grant them effectively blanket legal status is a different matter.
It's fine (it might even be good politics) for the president to demonize those who don't support the DREAM Act, which would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants brought here as children.
Treating Congress like a club whose votes are essentially meaningless is not.
Other problems: It creates instability. What if Obama is not the president in January? A successor administration has no obligation to uphold a memo from Homeland Security. And Obama himself has said this is only for two years. What is going to happen to those who have proudly declared their illegality?
It sends yet another message to those waiting in line to enter the country legally: You are fools. Why should they respect this nation's laws as written if the president doesn't?
Finally, what does putting another 800,000 people into the legal workforce do, at a time of stubbornly high unemployment, especially to African-Americans who are disproportionately affected by a sluggish recovery?
Not much. I guess he thinks they'll vote for him anyway. So, I wonder how they feel about being taken so transparently for granted.
- Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.
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