President Barack Obama works on his immigration speech. (Official White House Photo)
President Barack Obama works on his immigration speech.
(Official White House Photo)

President Barack Obama outlined to the nation his executive action on immigration last night.  He asserted what he is ordering is not amnesty, rather the current status quo is amnesty.

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today -– millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.

That’s the real amnesty –- leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability –- a common-sense, middle-ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

What he is offering, however, is tantamount to amnesty.

The actions he plans to take are:

  1. Send more resources to the border.
  2. Make it easier for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay in the United States.
  3. Deal “responsibly” with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

President Obama, rightly, pointed out that the third action would be the most contentious.   It is this action where he stretches the limits of his executive authority.

As the chief executive he certainly has the authority to order how the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prioritize their resources.  It makes sense that felons would be initially targeted.  Unfortunately, contrary to what President Obama has said, that is not happening.  Granted that isn’t always ICE’s fault as some municipalities have been less than cooperative.

Honestly though, that has already been the approach of the Obama administration.  They are just articulating it.  The fact is unless you have felony charges it’s a pretty safe bet that ICE will not deport you.  Eric Holder believes that a pathway to citizenship for illegals is a civil right which didn’t inspire confidence, and it’s likely the new Attorney General will have similar feelings.  But how can we believe that President Obama has suddenly become tough on illegal undocumented immigrant crime when his administration has overseen the release of over 36,000 illegal immigrants with criminal record including hundreds who are felons.  To be fair, ICE under the Bush administration was just as bad about catch and release.

Here is where he really went off the tracks.

If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes — you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

How can you not call this anything but amnesty?  How are Americans supposed to believe he’ll deport those here in the United States for less than five years when he has not done it thus far?

I suspect the legal challenges will be filed before the ink is even dry from signing his executive order.  This action is simply unconstitutional.

President Obama also tried to compare himself to other Presidents.

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee and its future chair when the Republican caucus takes power in January, made a good rebuttal to that narrative in a speech he gave Wednesday night on the Senate floor.

The Democratic leadership wants to compare what’s being threatened here to the executive actions of past presidents on immigration.  But the actions of Presidents Reagan and Bush were merely tying up loose ends, carrying out a law Congress had just passed.  They established policies that were later put into statute in 1990.  President Obama is threatening to act directly against the wishes of Congress, and on a far greater scope and scale.

He in fact is usurping current immigration law.  Grassley also said:

But the President’s unilateral action on immigration isn’t just bad policy.  It’s contrary to the rule of law.  It’s unconstitutional for the executive branch to nullify, or even unilaterally re-write, the immigration laws that the people of the United States, through their elected representatives, have chosen to enact.

But this is not surprising for this President, after all he has a pen and a phone and has largely chosen to ignore Congress which Grassley addressed in his statement yesterday.

Unfortunately, if the American people have learned anything about this President, it’s that he has never worked well with Congress-even those in his own party.  His disdain for a co-equal branch of government is very evident.  It shows in executive actions like this, in regulations that the American people are solidly against, and in his and his Cabinet’s responses to Congress’ constitutional responsibility of oversight.

This will just exasperate the current problem like his DACA executive order in 2012 helped contribute to the current border kids crisis we’ve seen in recent months.

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