The Corner

Obama’s Lawless Immigration Decree: Bad Policy, or Bad Timing?

Senate Democrats objecting to Obama’s plans to unilaterally legalize millions of illegals and increase legal immigration seem to be in two camps. One set of objections is based on timing, the other on principle.

Politico reports that Senator Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) has joined the craven call for delay; in Politico’s words, a spokesman for Nelson said that “Obama should use his executive authority to make fixes to the immigration system, but after the November elections.” Similarly, the near-certainty of a Republican takeover of the Senate in the wake of a lawless immigration decree impelled Colorado senator Michael Bennet, head of the Democrats’ Senate campaign committee, to beg the president to hold off. Less explicitly, Reid, Schumer, Durbin and others have tried to give the White House room to maneuver by saying that the timing of the edicts was up to the president. 

This has been reported as just another political story, but the underlying assumption is appalling. What these people are saying is that they support Obama’s taking the law into his own hands and ruling by decree, but he should wait til it’s too late for voters to do anything about it. They know the public is deeply opposed to such a “leap into the anti-democratic dark” but don’t care. By more than three to one people say “no” when asked if the president should “sidestep Congress and act on his own using executive orders” regarding immigration. That IBD/TIPP poll showed opposition is widespread, including majorities even of young people, single women, Hispanics, and blacks; self-described liberals were the only ones to back, by a small margin, Obama’s ends-justify-the-means plan for presidential caesarism.

Other Democratic senators are making principled objections, ones that should apply after the election as much as before. I doubt their sincerity, but they’re saying the right thing. Senator Pryor, for instance, has said: “I’m not for government by executive order. He needs to have statutory authority before he acts.” Hagan, Begich, and King (an IINO – Independent In Name Only) have also expressed concern about an Obama immigration decree in principled terms. Heck, even Al Franken has objected that “This is a job for Congress.”

When Obama does issue his immigration decrees, it will be interesting to see what these senators now making principled objections will do. Will they vote in favor of a Sense of the Senate resolution (or a concurrent resolution with the House next year, if Republicans take the majority), saying the president does not have the authority to unilaterally amnesty millions and increase legal immigration? I doubt it, but it’s a question voters and reporters should be asking them, repeatedly, before November 4, so voters have a better sense of what they really stand for.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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