President Obama has decided not to wait for Congress to enact de facto amnesty legislation. In order to make immigration policy “more fair, more efficient, and more just,” he suspends, by fiat, immigration law enforcement for approximately 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to this country as young children. Ninety-three percent of NRO readers in the homepage poll believe this move is “unconstitutional.” But even this strong term of opprobrium seems rather mild for what Charles Krauthammer rightly labeled “utter lawlessness.”
One hundred and seventy-four years ago, another Illinoisan (who like Obama spent time in the state legislature in Springfield) articulated a mirror opposite approach to law-breaking and law-making. On January 27, 1838, Abraham Lincoln declared that while it was unlikely that our republic would ever be militarily conquered by a foreign foe, we could “die by suicide” if we ignored our laws and Constitution. Lincoln’s remedy was “Let every American, every lover of liberty . . . swear . . . never to violate in the least particular the laws of the country; and never tolerate their violation by others.”
There are, Lincoln noted, “bad laws” and they “should be repealed as soon as possible, still while they exist they should be religiously observed.” How different is the vision of one of our greatest presidents to the actions of the current occupant of that office who is constantly telling us (on any number of issues) that he simply “cannot wait” for a recalcitrant Congress to act. How different also is Lincoln’s vision of law-breaking and law making from those religious leaders (including some on the center-right) who according to the Washington Times (“Obama Administration to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants,” Saturday, June 18, 2012) “endorsed” Obama’s usurpation of the Constitution.
Whether our current immigration enforcement laws are “bad” or “good,” need improvement or require revision, should be decided in our constitutional democracy by the Congress of the United States, not by Barrack Obama and Janet Napolitano. The problem is not that Obama’s decision is “politically motivated”; makes “long-term solutions difficult”; or even, that it provides amnesty. The main problem is that his decision is illegal and lawless.
Some Republicans, particularly Congressmen Lamar Smith of Texas and Steve King of Iowa, and a few other elected officials, clearly understand what is at stake. Others, judging from their immediate response to Obama’s actions, apparently do not (at least, not yet). As Lincoln put it, we should not only obey the laws ourselves, but we should also “never tolerate their violation by others.” Will the Republican and conservative opposition (congressional, presidential, professional, institutional, clerical, etc.) “tolerate their violation by others”?
Former senator Russ Feingold (D., Wis.) once said if a senator or congressman receives at least 25 phone calls on one subject he knows there is citizen concern on that particular issue. Call your congressman, senator, and candidates for national offices, and remind them that “prosecutorial discretion” does not trump the separation of powers of the world’s oldest constitution.