Jay Ambrose: When Obama does it, does that make it legal?

President Barack Obama, whose power abuses have played a role in the imperilment of tens of thousands of children and earned him slaps by the U.S. Supreme Court and the threat of a lawsuit by House Republicans, has promised more of the same.

If Congress doesn’t give him what he wants on immigration reform, he said he is going to change things himself. What that could well mean is unilaterally instituting a broad amnesty program of his aides’ devising.

It’s the kind of performance you would more likely expect on a “Saturday Night Live” stage than in the Rose Garden. There he nevertheless was, telling us “America cannot wait forever for them to act.” By “them” he meant House Republicans, by “act” he meant passage of sweeping legislation that meets his approval and by “forever” he meant passage is unlikely this year.

While no one can say for sure all that comes next, a New York Times story says the administration may give “work permits and protection from deportation to millions of immigrants now in the country.” Except that it would be much further reaching, this move could render something akin to the two-year, renewable, constitutionally questionable amnesty already granted by Obama in 2012 to more than a half-million immigrant youths who came here illegally as children.

This presidential venture is now seen as a factor encouraging great crowds of poor children unaccompanied by parents to come to the U.S. border. They come mostly from Central America, were sometimes escaping criminal violence but seem to have thought in many instances that amnesty applied to them, and they may yet see a new amnesty grant that does.

Many have had to walk through desert in temperatures over 100 degrees. Many of the girls have been raped. The U.S. Border Patrol can do little else but take care of them. What might a second amnesty do even as Obama brings more agents from the interior of the country to the border?

The larger point is that here we have just one of numerous instances of the president flirting openly with autocracy. He acts as an unaccountable king of the hill in myriad ways: releasing terrorists, engaging in regulatory overkill and endlessly rewriting laws with nothing passed by Congress.

Jonathan Turley, a liberal professor of constitutional law, sees a vast “usurpation of authority” in which Obama gets away with misdeeds even President Richard Nixon only dreamed about. For the sake of a constitutionally ordered, democratic, free republic, Turley has been banging drums to get more reaction from Congress and the courts.

There has been a flicker of judicial hope in a couple of recent Supreme Court decisions, such as a unanimous verdict that the president’s recess appointments bypassing the Senate will not stand because the Senate was not in recess.

Since most Democrats won’t sign on, Congress has done little to restore the crucial system of checks and balances, but here comes Republican House Speaker John Boehner with the threat of a lawsuit to stop the usurpation. The responses have been varied. Turley is all for it, some scholars say the House has proper standing and then there are those resorting to irrationality, such as in comparing numbers of executive orders signed by different presidents.

Obama comes in low on the graph, but these orders were not all created equal, as cleverer souls note; many by Obama were hugely awful while many by other presidents were perfectly OK. An even worse argument chiefly from the left is that Obama has had to act because Congress won’t do what he wants. In other words, effectuating arguable Obama policies is an end that justifies the catastrophic means of ignoring rule of law. But did Obama really cross that line?

“When a president does it, that means it is not illegal,” Nixon once said. Whoever thought there would come a day when so many liberals echoed the sentiment?

Contact Jay Ambrose of McClatchy-Tribune News Service at speaktojay@aol.com.

One thought on “Jay Ambrose: When Obama does it, does that make it legal?

  1. Dennis

    I like good process, I don’t wish the President to substitute his own, and will personally affirm that if he acts unilaterally in this matter he will be acting beyond his Constitutional authority. In such an instance, the Supreme Court should move to block him.

    I must note at the same time however, that this is a crisis of our own making, and not simply of this administration.

    We are seeing bad faith abuse of our system, because our system has no legal portal for absorbing immigrants who mean us no harm, save small exceptions like this that immigrants are incentivized to walk all over, as for them it is preferable to the alternative.

    To come to the United States, beyond the permissible criteria of being in good health and lacking culpability in crime or terrorist intent, we throw on additional, more cynical conditions:

    1. You must have labor skills that we (and by we I mean bureaucrats) are looking for, or
    2. You must already have family living legally within the United States, or
    3. You must be coming from a far-flung nation from whom we receive few immigrants. If so, you will qualify for a diversity lottery, where your chance of winning is 1 in 7.

    If you do not fall under any of these three, you will not enter. There is no legal process, no line for you to step into.

    Either you come here illegally, or you abuse the asylum process. Neither is much of a success for the system.

    “Many have had to walk through desert in temperatures over 100 degrees. Many of the girls have been raped. The U.S. Border Patrol can do little else but take care of them. What might a second amnesty do even as Obama brings more agents from the interior of the country to the border?”

    They would do this regardless. The harsher effects of their migration is the result of their presence of being a black market, or otherwise an abuse of the system. If the system wasn’t trying to draw hard lines as to how many could enter, and simply processed people on a case by case basis, letting any who come, in, so long as they were shown not to be an imminent threat, this wouldn’t be the issue it is right now.

    The abuse exists because the system is broken, and *we* broke it. The immigrants are simply reacting to the incentives we set up in breaking it.


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