By Bekah Paxton, Staff Writer
In an interview last year, President Obama expressed that he was proud of his protection of the “Dreamers”—those people who illegally immigrated to the United States as children. However, he posited that he would not be able to continue saving them and the expanding group of immigrants from deportation. He stated, “If we start broadening that, then essentially I’ll be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally… So that’s not an option.”
On the contrary, New York Times reporter Michael Shear describes that a White House statement last week implied that the President was set to go back on this statement, with an expectation of safeguarding 5 million illegal residents from deportation, and further providing work permits for many.
On Thursday, the president gave a speech establishing this measure to allow illegal immigrants to “come out of the shadows” and “reap the rewards of living in America” without fear of deportation.
Back in 2013, Obama accurately described his difficult situation on the topic of immigration: “The problem is, is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.” Not only did the same president deem this sort of program illegal just a year ago, but such a policy will only serve to encourage the hazardous practice of illegal immigration into the United States.
He stated in his speech that only criminals will be deported, and those living in the U.S. for at least five years will be given a path to legal temporary residency. The problem in my opinion is that essentially all of these people are criminals. They have entered the United States illegally, surpassing all of the hopeful legal immigrants waiting exorbitant amounts of time to enter the country.
The White House statements released on Nov. 17 stress that the president has not changed his opinion on the issue since 2013, only that he has shifted his emphasis to a new method of implementing his policies. In effect, the president’s speech outlining his executive order skipped over the traditional journey of legislation through Congress—circumventing the process which provides openness of ideas and the transparency essential to upholding the founding principles of America.
The tricky part about such a move is that an executive order is not authorized in the Constitution, but not prohibited either. In fact, the Constitution provides that the president must ensure that the laws are faithfully executed, and executive orders are often justified as policies which allow the president to fulfill this duty.
Understandably, Congress has been historically majorly gridlocked on this issue. Human rights are a huge contender in the debate over accepting illegal immigrants in the way Obama has, but also preservation of the legal naturalization process and protection of American citizens present important factors to consider as well.
Immigration is a constant flux, and a continuous problem for the United States, as evidenced by its recurrence in all kinds of election debates. The Obama administration in particular ran on principles of expanding immigration policies in this way from the beginning of his campaign, so why is this issue surfacing now?
The recent results of the midterm elections may explain why President Obama presented his plan in the form of an executive order. Since Republicans took majority control of the Senate and the House, most likely an immigration bill favored by Obama would not pass in Congress with any great speed.
An executive order, on the other hand, is essentially a policy declaration by the president—a more instant action that would avoid the messy gridlock of Congress and would avoid being completely shot down by the Republican majority. Therefore, it is entirely convenient of President Obama to announce a such a measure expanding benefits for illegal immigrants just after the Democrat disaster of an election season.
Also evidenced by the outcome of the recent election is that Obama does not hold the ideological majority of the United States constituency. Using a highly bureaucratic power on an issue as polarizing as immigration will likely ignite huge controversy among the public. He claims the bipartisanship of this measure, however his failure to persuade Congress to pass a bill insists upon a lack of consideration of public opinion, and rejection of his role as the ultimate representative of the American people.