Rule by Executive Fiat

On Friday, President Barack Obama announced a shift in immigration enforcement by issuing an executive order that would bypass Congress, which has stalled on the DREAM Act, allowing hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States provided they receive a work visa:

The Obama administration announced Friday it will stop deporting illegal immigrants who come to the country at a young age.

The politically charged decision comes as Obama faces a tough reelection fight against Republican Mitt Romney, and Hispanic voters in swing states will play a crucial role in the contest.

The change in policy could allow as many as 800,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally not only to remain in the country without fear of being deported, but to work legally, according to a senior administration official speaking to reporters Friday.

In a Rose Garden statement, President Obama said the measure would “lift the shadow of deportation” from immigrants, some of who have made “extraordinary contributions” by “serving in our military and protecting our freedom.”

“That we would treat them as expendable makes no sense,” Obama said.

“They study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods … they pledge allegiance to our flag, they are Americans in their hearts and minds … and in every single way but one: on paper.”

I don’t have a problem with most of the goals of the DREAM Act. Being a libertarian, I believe immigration is a net-positive for country and it should be encouraged, though our terrible immigration laws need to be reformed. However, I do take issue with President Obama because he has bypassed Congress to implement policy.

Presidens have consumed a lot of power of the last 80 years. The executive branch, which is supposed to be equal with the other two branches of government, is meant to enforce laws. The Constitution provides some latitude in Article II so that the president can ensure that laws are “faithfully executed.” But the Constitution does not provide a president with the means to arbitrarily make law.

With that said, Obama isn’t the first president to implement policy absent congressional approval. 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order to confiscate all privately held gold. In 1942, he also issued an executive order to intern Japanese Americans, which was truly a horrible infringement on civil liberties. More recently, George W. Bush issued controversial executive orders to deal with the war on terrorism.

Focusing too much on the policy aspect is a political loser for Republicans. That’s why Mitt Romney has been so coy when asked whether or not he’d reverse it. While the GOP can’t count on the he Hispanic vote, they certainly need at least some support from them. Unless a lawsuit against the order is successful, Obama will have consumed more power for the executive branch further blurring the lines between the executive and legislative branches.

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