I have a lot to say about President Obama’s little speech on immigration last night, and the ramifications of his actions. Yet what irks me right up front is his attempt to use the Bible to justify what he has done. In his remarks, he solemnly intoned, “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.”
First, I don’t believe for a moment that Scripture informs his life and actions; using it as a prop was purely political. But there is also the insinuation that the one nation on the face of the earth that has been most open to a flood of immigrants throughout its history is bent on oppressing strangers in its midst.
Frankly, that’s just insulting.
Legal immigrants—people who follow the rules—have never been oppressed, and illegal immigrants—those who chose a different path—have hardly been lined up and executed for their illegal crossing of the border. Never has a country treated a group of lawbreakers with so much magnanimity.
Try crossing into Mexico illegally sometime. That’s when you will witness oppression.
So please, President Obama, don’t insult either our intelligence or our heartfelt receptivity toward immigrants.
The problem with what the president has done is twofold: it defies the entire concept of the rule of law and it is a blatantly cynical political stunt for his own partisan advantage.
While claiming fidelity to the Constitution, Barack Obama has declared that document null and void.
Too many commentators are acting as if this is the first time he has done this. I would argue he has done it many times, but this blog today doesn’t need to turn into a dissertation—it would be too long to read. And I would argue further that he isn’t the first president to overstep his boundaries. Franklin Roosevelt, by executive order, forced all Americans to turn in their gold to the government. That was pretty dictatorial. He got away with it only because we were in the midst of the Great Depression and he had a stranglehold on Congress.
Additionally, as I’ve taught students over the years, Congress itself has routinely overstepped its constitutional authorization by legislating on matters that are not found anywhere in that document.
So, ignoring the Constitution is not a new thing. But President Obama has highlighted this trend by simply claiming publicly that he has the authority to do on his own what he has no constitutional authority to do. He basks in his own illegal actions, so why should illegal immigration bother him?
He claims Congress has abdicated its responsibility to act, so therefore he must. His rationale for doing so wouldn’t pass the logic test in other circumstances.
He says that other presidents, both Democrat and Republican, have acted in a similar fashion on immigration, citing Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush. There’s one glaring difference, though. Both Reagan and Bush issued executive orders solely on the manner in which a congressional action would be carried out. You see, Congress passed an immigration law in 1986; those two presidents were simply laying out a few rules for how to put it into effect. Our current president decided to make his own law instead.
In case you’re wondering: no, the president, in our constitutional system, cannot make laws.
The president oversees the executive branch of the government; he is not the government. When he tries to be the entire government all by himself, he’s no longer a president but a monarch of some kind. Political cartoonists have rightly skewered him for this amazing abuse of power.
President Obama, on something like 26 occasions, publicly declared that he had no authority to act on his own on the immigration issue. Yet that now seems to have changed, at least in his own mind. Frankly, I don’t think he ever believed what he said about the limits on his authority; he only said so because he didn’t think he could get away with it. Now, with a stinging electoral defeat and no more elections to worry about, he has cast aside that fiction and acted on what he has really believed all along.
The other half of the problem, as I mentioned at the beginning of this rather long post, is the pure cynicism and political nature of this action. It’s Barack Obama rubbing it in the face of his political opposition and casting them as the villains who want to “oppress” the strangers in our midst.
To further my thesis of his cynicism, I need to point out that as he embarked on his presidency six years ago, he claimed that immigration reform was his top priority. Yet, for two full years, with complete control of Congress at his fingertips, he offered no leadership on the issue. It was all political rhetoric. He’s far more interested in scoring political points against Republicans than solving a very real problem with compassion and respect for the rule of law simultaneously.
You see, his executive order solves nothing permanently. All it does is provide a greater incentive for future illegal immigration.
The problems with this presidency go far beyond his response to illegal immigration. They run the gamut of the entire policy spectrum, and we will continue to be subjected to his reign of error for two more years. How will Republicans respond to it? Hopefully, with wisdom and an ability to communicate truth to the public. This “kingship” must be challenged.