The Corner

Amnesty and Impeachment . . . Cont’d

Apropos of my weekend column on President Obama’s imminent decree of amnesty for illegal immigrants, Stephen Dinan has an interesting report in today’s Washington Times:

The Obama administration told federal immigration lawyers to release illegal immigrants with “old” drunken-driving convictions and those found guilty of stealing other people’s identities, according to a lawsuit filed by one of the lawyers at the center of the operation.

Patricia M. Vroom, a top attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona, filed a 67-page discrimination complaint that details repeated battles with agency higher-ups who told her to close cases and not deport people whom President Obama deemed low-priority.

Federal officials were particularly dismissive of identity theft convictions from Arizona, arguing that the state’s laws were too strict and stealing an ID to get a job wasn’t a serious enough offense to get kicked out of the country.

“This was a very significant development, as generally, criminal aliens, particularly convicted felons, are, under the [prosecutorial discretion] memos, ‘priority’ cases that should be aggressively pursued,” Ms. Vroom said in her complaint.

But she said her superiors deemed the identity theft felons low-level offenders “since the typical alien defendant convicted under these provisions of Arizona criminal law had simply been using a fake I.D. to get and keep employment.” [Emphasis added.]

The full story is here. Note that the lawsuit in which these allegations are aired centers on the side issue of whether the complaining government lawyer was discriminated against by her superiors. The Obama administration is not being sued for its systematic non-enforcement of immigration law. That non-enforcement — which I catalogue in Faithless Execution — is simply the backdrop for the discrimination claim.

I highlight this legal technicality to illuminate the more important point, argued in my weekend column: The Constitution gives the president plenary power over federal law enforcement. The public, Congress, and the courts can complain about the president’s rampant violations of his oath to execute the laws faithfully, but there is no law that can be passed, no court ruling that can be issued, capable of forcing the president to carry out his duty to enforce the laws.

Take note, moreover, of how cavalierly the Obama administration sloughs off identity-theft crimes committed by illegal aliens. As I observed in the weekend column, quite apart from illegally entering and/or illegally remaining in the United States — offenses that can be misdemeanors, felonies, or deportable civil violations depending on the circumstances — illegal aliens tend to commit various forms of identity theft and fraud: visa fraud, marriage fraud, Social Security fraud, bank fraud, tax evasion, etc.

These are generally felony offenses, serious enough that most of them can result in significant jail time. Yet amnesty proponents would have us look the other way. The illegal aliens must commit fraud and identity theft, we are told, to overcome the steep challenge of illegitimately living and working in the United States. The underlying illegality somehow becomes the defense to committing new crimes. Thus are illegal aliens given preferential treatment not only over aliens who abide by our laws in attempting to come and stay here, but also over American citizens. The latter are routinely prosecuted, imprisoned and fined for crimes that the Obama administration is enabling illegal aliens to commit with relative impunity.

I emphasize this point because the illegal-immigration amnesty that the president will soon unilaterally decree, and which (as the column explains) I believe he will use the pardon power to carry out, will be an amnesty for many, many criminal offenses besides immigration transgressions. The president’s pardon power is plenary: Neither Congress nor the courts can stop Obama from using it. And winning elections is not a solution: No future Republican president could reverse Obama’s pardons. The only real check on abuse of the pardon power is impeachment.

As for the abuse of prosecutorial discretion, it is theoretically possible for Congress to counter it with the power of the purse — and personally, I see no reason why Congress should continue to fund, at today’s astronomical levels, Departments of Justice and Homeland Security that refrain from enforcing laws, lawlessly confer benefits Congress has not enacted on illegal aliens, and stonewall when called to account for the administration’s schemes. But let’s face it: GOP leadership is scared to death of taking a stand that could lead to even a very partial government shutdown. It is highly unlikely that Congress is going to start slashing agency funding in a meaningful way. Consequently, impeachment becomes the last remaining check on the president’s refusal to enforce the laws.

The National Review cruise has been a joy, but I’ve already had several variations of the following conversation with our wonderful readers:

“Andy, how do we stop Obama from doing amnesty?”

“You’d have to impeach him.”

“Hah! [and some eye-rolling.] No, I mean how do we really stop him?”

People desperately want to believe there is a way to stop the president without stopping him from being the president. I wish I could give them better news.

As I’ve contended for six years, Obama is guided only by his political calculations, not the law or his oath of office. Last week’s was the last election that mattered to him personally. That’s why so much bad stuff — amnesty, Obamacare mandates, capitulation to Iran, the Vietnam-ization of Iraq/Syria, Gitmo closure, net neutrality, etc. — was put off until it was over. The president’s interest in future elections lies in the preservation and expansion of the transformation he has overseen. That portends three things: the exploitation of Obama’s raw power as far as he thinks he can get away with it (which is very far); the appointment of as many progressive judges as possible, since their life-tenure can consolidate and extend the “change” he has wrought for decades to come; and the orchestration of massive immigration amnesty with a route to citizenship and voting rights for illegal aliens who, Obama and the Left reckon, could give Democrats a permanent governing majority.

I am not unrealistic about our political possibilities, but I insist on being clear-eyed about our options. So I will repeat the point that I wrote Faithless Execution to make. Our constitutional system assumes impeachment is a serious, viable check on executive maladministration — in some egregious instances, it is the only check. The Framers could have designed the system a different way, but they did not. If you have a lawless and abusive president, and you nevertheless disavow the only weapon the system gives you to fight a rogue executive, you are going to get more lawlessness and abuse. Period.

Impeaching Obama would be a very unpleasant choice, and there is clearly no appetite for it. But living with what he is otherwise going to do over the next two years (on top of what he has already done) will be a more unpleasant choice. And there are no other choices.

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