In the wake of this week’s Supreme Court decision striking down parts of the controversial Arizona immigration law, the White House announced President Obama’s decision to unilaterally cancel agreements between the federal government and seven Arizona law enforcement agencies. These “287 (g)” agreements had allowed state officials to request that federal officials pick up illegal immigrants held in state and local jails. Previously, the federal government had also allowed state officials to ask federal agencies to check the immigration status of people who were arrested or stopped for traffic violations.
The Supreme Court’s ruling upheld this cooperation between state and federal agencies, but, according to the Daily Caller, administration officials say that Arizona will not be allowed to transfer illegal aliens to federal custody unless they are felons or are known to have recently crossed the border. The practical effect of the White House announcement is to invalidate Arizona’s ability to check immigration status.
The Supreme Court ruling largely invoked the pre-eminence of federal law, but President Obama is choosing not to enforce those same laws. Essentially, President Obama is ignoring federal immigration law and is preventing the states from taking action to protect their own borders and citizens.
The move is apparently an attempt to punish Arizona for enacting its own immigration law against the Obama Administration’s wishes. Several other states have enacted similar legislation that allows state and local police to check the immigration status of suspects and detain illegal aliens. Georgia passed an immigration bill modeled on the Arizona law in 2011.
The move by the White House, together with its announcement last week that it would not deport illegal aliens who entered the U.S. as children, is an obvious attempt to solidify Obama’s support in the Latino community. The president might be disappointed in the results. A recent Gallup poll shows that only 12 percent of Hispanic registered voters view immigration as the most important issue. Healthcare, unemployment, the economy and the gap between rich and poor all rank higher.
The president’s unilateral policy also states that the Department of Homeland Security would issue work visas to the affected young people. President Obama lacks the authority under the Constitution to issue these visas since only Congress is granted the power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations” and “establish a uniform rule of naturalization.” In any case, since the policy was established by an executive order and not by act of Congress, it is unlikely to last long past the election.
President Obama’s decision not to take border security seriously is a gamble with national security. According to Customs and Border Patrol data obtained by CNS News, agents apprehended 255 illegal aliens from “special interest countries” along the southwestern border in 2011. These included people from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Somalia and Sudan, all countries “that have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members” according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Obama’s moves may cost him support in other areas. A Pew poll from June 2012 showed that 70 percent of Americans believe that border security should be the first priority or equal in importance to a pathway to citizenship for illegals. This may explain why the president’s approval index by Rasmussen has dropped by six points over the past week.
Aside from the immigration question, the unilateral move is another in a series of executive power grabs by President Obama. His decision not to enforce constitutional laws that were duly passed by Congress may not play well with Americans who value the objective rule of law over the subjective whims of whoever happens to reside in the Oval Office.
In traditional American government, Congress, the legislative branch, makes the laws and the president, the executive branch, enforces them. Short of a judicial ruling that forces him to carry out the duties of his office, Congress cannot make President Obama do his job. Generally, if a president does not like the law as it is written, he works with his allies in Congress to pass new laws, not simply announce that the law will no longer be enforced.
The ultimate control over the executive branch lies in the hands of the electorate. If voters believe that President Obama is not doing his duty as president, they may well decide that his contract does not deserve to be renewed for another four years.
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