It is about as right as right gets that young people whose parents brought them into the United States illegally as children should be legalized, and it was about as wrong as wrong gets for President Barack Obama to spit on the Constitution in order to temporarily do it on his own. He himself had said no fewer than 22 times that he had no authority to act but traveled the autocratic road anyway.
The excuse, of course, was that Republicans in Congress were obstructing good intentions and that he was thereby freed to trash the system that put him into office. He had, in fact, sworn to uphold the Constitution and was refusing that obligation, apparently figuring that the end justified the means and that miswrought legalese would help him get away with it. Why worry?
Because it took a Revolutionary War, a challenged union of states, a brilliantly devised republic like no other in world history and varied struggles over more than two centuries to make us what we are, that’s why.
As kind as it was that the 800,000 got some relief, it was also politically advantageous, and Obama was weakening representative democracy. He was strengthening misuse of executive power. He was diminishing rule of law. Along with his other unilateral hijinks, such as the Clean Power Plan, the move summed up his disdain for fundamental American principles.
Executive orders are vulnerable, however. An executive issues them, and a succeeding executive can take them away. So it is that President Donald Trump decided to revoke the order but keep it alive for six months so that Congress could fix things the right way. Trump thereby showed respect for the law but also showed concern for the 800,000. The young immigrants could be happily relying on a properly enacted law far more stable than a presidential misdeed quite probably on its way to being scotched by the courts. Another of Obama’s immigration amnesties met that fate.
An argument against congressional action is that it will simply encourage more illegal immigrants to enter the country either by coming over the border or overstaying visas. Trump, however, did call for an e-verify system to help with the visas and, to help with border security, his wall, his wall, his wonderful wall. He shouldn’t get it because there are far less expensive and equally effective means of achieving what he has already significantly furthered just through his oratory. But he could very well get improved security that includes a few walls.
So will Congress, after years of dilly-dally and head-bumping, say yes to the young people who are here not because of their own free will, but because their parents snuck them in? They are good, productive people who are already enriching our country and it would be unspeakably cruel to disrupt their lives now by shipping them away. An argument in another direction is that laws were disobeyed and that it undermines our sovereignty not to enforce them.
But Trump is working on deporting criminals who are illegal immigrants and reforming legal immigration to lessen numbers and emphasize skills. In that context, it seems to me that doing the right thing by the young people is the easy choice and that members of Congress should eschew political overreach.
The last thing the Democrats should be doing is calling Trump’s corrective measures racist and trying to make all Republicans seem nothing but demagogues. The last thing the Republicans should be doing is insisting the Democrats just want to enlarge their voting bloc. What we need is reasonable, respectful, heartfelt discussion that could get us to a resolution making us all proud.
I think we will.
Jay Ambrose is a columnist for Tribune News Service.
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