COMMENTARY | President Obama intends institute a new policy stopping the deportation of illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions, according to the Hill. The move is virtually certain to meet with opposition from border control groups.
Illegal immigrants receive this kind of conditional amnesty have to have come to the United States before age 16 and who are younger than 30 if they have lived in the United States for five years, have graduated from high school or served in the military and have no criminal records (aside from violating immigration laws), according to the Hill. The illegal immigrants will also be issued work permits, but will not, for the time being at least, be placed on the path to citizenship.
The gambit is an obvious attempt to shore up the Hispanic vote for President Obama. Also, according to the Associated Press, the measure is said to track closely to a version of the national DREAM Act being worked up by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, mentioned often as a vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney. Thus the move is designed to undercut a potentially powerful member of the Republican ticket.
Questions, of course, arise.
First, does the president actually have the power to alter immigration law by executive fiat? Clearly the Obama administration thinks it does. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, in announcing the policy, stated, according to CNS News, that immigration laws "are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here."
Second, what will be the political effects of the policy? It is a clear pander for the Hispanic vote, but might also alienate blue-collar workers. Adding as many as 800,000 people to the official work force will wreck havoc on the unemployment numbers. It is not as if there are a lot of jobs being created that could absorb this influx.
Whatever the merits of the new policy -- and it has merit -- bypassing Congress creates a bad precedence. If Obama gets away with doing this, then not only he but future presidents will be able to cite "discretion" to justify which laws they choose to enforce and which laws they choose to ignore. It does damage to Constitutional checks and balances.