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Jim Tait 02/01-02/28/17

home : opinions : opinions
September 24, 2017

9/8/2017 7:29:00 AM
Trump makes the right move on Dreamers

President Donald Trump pulled the plug this week on the so-called Dreamers' program that gave deportation relief to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, ending the amnesty order created by President Obama.

It was the right move, constitutionally and politically.

In the end, this matter is not about whether the Dreamers' amnesty program was good or bad; it is about whether we are going to require that the people's representatives make the nation's laws, or confer an imperial power on presidents to make whatever laws they see fit to make.

In the past, Congress explicitly refused to enact this program, and so Obama did it with his pen and an executive order, in effect enacting his own legislation to help some 800,000 illegal immigrants.

No matter how one feels about the "Dreamers" - they came as children, not as aliens hell-bent on defying the law - the affront to the United States constitution was egregious. In this country, we simply do not allow presidents to make up laws they like, especially ones Congress had refused to pass.

Even liberals who had once supported Obama and who favored the Dreamers' program objected to his royal usurpation of Congress's legislative powers.

Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley, a noted constitutional scholar who had voted for Obama and who supported the amnesty program, nonetheless assailed the president on the executive order.

"When a president claims the inherent power of both legislation and enforcement, he becomes a virtual government unto himself," Turley testified before Congress. "He is not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system; he becomes the very danger that the constitution was designed to avoid."

When it came to immigration, Turley said, Obama lost even the pretense of reasoned authority. To wit, he said, there had long been a consensus that a president cannot refuse to enforce a law considered constitutionally sound. In other words, a president may not lawfully defy an Act of Congress if the act is constitutional; the constitution can dispense a statute, but the executive cannot.

But that's exactly what Obama did, he asserted.

"The federal law mandates deportation for individuals in the country illegally," he said. "While prosecutorial discretion has been cited in individual case decisions, the administration was using it to nullify the application of federal law to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of individuals."

All of which, Turley contended, was signaling the triumph of a "royal prerogative" in the American political system.

"The American governmental system is being fundamentally transformed into something vastly different from the intentions of the Framers or, for that matter, the assumptions underlying the constitutional structure," he testified.

In announcing the program's termination this week, attorney general Jeff Sessions correctly stressed the unconstitutionality of the program.

"The executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions," Sessions said. "Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch."

And so, while liberals have been busy since before the inauguration bemoaning what President Trump might do to the constitution, in this instance, as he has in others, he actually rescued the constitution from the trash can Obama tossed it into.

Good job, Mr. President.

So, one might ask, what about all those Dreamers? How cruel could he be? Surely it's all right to suspend or ignore the constitution if you're doing something good, right?

Well, no, it's not. Remember, those who are powerful enough to suspend your constitutional rights will be the ones deciding what is good enough and right enough to justify it, and it may not be what you think is good and right.

One person's whip is another person's yoke.

But here's where Trump's announcement is beautiful. It delays the end of the program for six months. That gives Congress plenty of time to save the program if it wants to, and if it feels enough political pressure from the nation to do so.

In other words, Trump is hanging the albatross right around Congress's neck, and that's where it deserves to be. It is Congress's constitutional responsibility to makes immigration law, after all.

"Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!" Trump tweeted this week.

So Trump is actually doing two good things here: He is restoring the rule of constitutional law, and he is calling out Congress for the cowardly and irresponsible way it operates.

What is the Republican Congress likely to do? Well, it's likely to pass some kind of Dreamer legislation, if not exactly what we have now, mainly because many Republicans did support Dreamer legislation, even if they abhorred the president's methodology to get it.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is among those who now supports protecting the Dreamers.

"I have always believed DACA was a presidential overreach," Graham said. "However, I equally understand the plight of the Dream Act kids who - for all practical purposes know no country other than America. If President Trump makes this decision we will work to find a legislative solution to their dilemma."

Some conservatives, such as Ann Coulter, do not like the idea of allowing the Dreamers to stay and so she and others with similar views wanted the president to just scrap the program immediately. But a delay seems in keeping with the constitution to let Congress make its decision, if Congress wants to, and it is compassionate as well.

And last week, House speaker Paul Ryan said he did indeed support and foresee a legislative solution to protect undocumented minors, but, typically, he thought the easiest way to do that was just to keep the program in place.

That shows Ryan also does not care about the constitution - big government Republicans no more respect it than do big government Democrats - and that action would also allow him to continue to hide behind presidential executive actions.

That ploy will not now work. The president has corrected Obama's constitutional mischief, and he is suddenly making it much harder for Republicans in Congress to engage in their own.





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