Nov 21, 2014

Left and Right Agree: The President’s Immigration Action is About the Constitution

The President announced yesterday a striking and unconstitutional expansion of federal power. He is unilaterally rewriting our immigration laws against the express will of Congress and the will of the people.

Though the President may think so, this action isn’t just some political game. There is not a left-right divide on this matter. There is only a divide between the President and those who respect the constitutional processes of our democratic government.

The Speaker has already laid out the 22 times President Obama himself said that he couldn’t ignore current immigration law or create new law himself. At one point, the President said regarding immigration, “The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting…. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.”

Apparently the President has changed his mind, but the Constitution doesn’t change when the President does.

The President isn’t the only one who has spoken against the very actions he has taken. Even before the President formally announced his unilateral action, only slightly more than one third of Americans supported the President.

And more and more, Democrats and those on the left are speaking out against the President’s action because they recognize that even if they like the ends, we must respect our Constitutional process.

  • Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said, “I wish [the President] wouldn’t do it. I think we ought to work through this process, and with the new elections and the results of the elections, we ought to try in January and see if we can find a pathway to get something accomplished.”
  • Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said that the way the President is doing this “makes me uncomfortable, I think it probably makes most Missourians uncomfortable.”
  • Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) said that the “President shouldn’t make such significant policy changes on his own.”
  • Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said, “I’m disappointed the president decided to use executive action at this time on this issue, as it could poison any hope of compromise or bipartisanship in the new Senate before it has even started. It’s Congress’s job to pass legislation and deal with issues of this magnitude.”

The criticism of the President’s action is not limited to elected officials alone.

  • Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the President is “literally” doing what he previously said was unconstitutional.
  • Damon Linker, a contributing editor of the progressive New Republic, wrote that the President is trying to achieve his ends by “violating the letter and the spirit of federal law.” He then adds that the President’s rationale of prosecutorial discretion “could be used by any president of either party to do anything at all.”
  • Calvin Woodward of the Associated Press noted that President Obama’s unilateralism is not similar to what other President’s have done, saying President Obama’s actions “stand out from those of his predecessors because of the sheer scope of what he’s doing and the political tenor of the times…. The legal protection that Obama is extending to as many as 5 million immigrants by executive action reaches far more people and comes without the bipartisan consensus.”
  • The Washington Post editorial board criticized the President’s go-it-alone approach saying, “unilateralism will not make the system work.” Earlier this year, the board wrote that even though President Obama previously said he couldn’t act on his own, the President “now seems to be jettisoning that stance in the name of rallying his political base.”
  • The Dallas Mornings News editorial board wrote, “No matter how much we agree with Obama that bold action is necessary to fix the nation’s broken immigration system, provoking a bitter constitutional fight is a formula for failure.… Obama’s order also risks sending a dangerous message to thousands of would-be immigrants in Mexico and Central America. We know from the border crisis this summer that rumors travel quickly, prompting migration surges based on misinformation.”
  • The LA Times editorial board, even while welcoming some of the ends, decried how the President did it, saying, “We dislike the ease with which [President Obama] shifted from saying he lacked the authority to act — to acting anyway.… Obama’s decision not to deport millions of people has been framed as an issue of ‘prosecutorial discretion,’ but that seems disingenuous.… The president is seeking to enact a policy that he has been unsuccessful in persuading Congress to support. That’s not how policy should be made.”

This is not a battle between Democrats and Republicans. This is not a divide between pro- and ant-immigration reform.  This is about resisting an assault on democratic government and protecting the constitutional separation of powers. That is something everyone should get behind.

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