It's hard to conceive of a presidential administration more cynical than one that would delay putting off issuing a lawless executive order on immigration until right after the congressional elections, but President Obama is doing just that.
If he were sure the American public would support his unilateral action, he would not have hesitated to issue it prior to the elections, but he knew it wouldn't. Even if many people agree with the substance of his policy, which is hardly a foregone conclusion, he knows they don't agree with his method of thwarting the Congress, the Constitution and the rule of law.
But this defiant ideologue clearly doesn't care. He not only is unapologetic about brazenly going forward with his quasi-amnesty plan but also will do it with a spirit of moral indignation, an attitude that he, in his sovereign power, is tired of waiting on those in the coequal legislative branch to accede to his executive demands and to surrender their will — and that of the people they represent — to him.
Fox News reports that President Obama is planning to unveil, as early as Nov. 21, a 10-part plan for overhauling U.S. immigration policy through executive action — action that would include suspending deportation for millions of people living in the United States illegally.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest denied that Obama had made a final decision on taking these unilateral steps and said he will wait to announce his plans until after he returns to Washington from his Asia-Pacific trip. But Americans are well aware of what it means when Obama says he hasn't quite made up his mind, such as with his "evolving" charade on same-sex marriage. Not having made up his mind doesn't mean he remains undecided; it means that he doesn't believe it's quite the right time to admit his decision to the American people and that he will do so when it is most beneficial to him and his policy goals.
Based on preliminary reports about Obama's impending executive order, it will seek to expand deferred action for immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children and also for the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The order involving these parents alone could include as many as 4.5 million people, making them free from deportation action. These people would receive work authorization in this country, Social Security numbers and government-issued IDs.
As for the younger people included in the order, it would expand on a previous illegal action Obama took in June 2012, after admitting he had no authority to act without Congress. At that time, he announced he wouldn't deport immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, provided they entered before June 2007 and would be younger than 31 as of June 2012. With his planned order, he will look to expand that to cover people who entered before they were 16 and amend the cutoff date from June 2007 to Jan. 1, 2010. This would make an estimated 300,000 more people eligible for deferred action.
I don't care how singularly compassionate President Obama and his Democratic friends mistakenly believe they are being; he has no right to take this action without congressional approval. It is lawless and inexcusable. Democrats would be outraged if the shoe were on the other foot. Lucky for them, Republicans, believing in the rule of law, will not reciprocate with similarly outrageous usurpations of congressional authority should they win the White House in 2016. Comparisons to past GOP presidential executive orders are disingenuous, and Democrats know it. Obama's proposed executive order is on a massive scale and would effect a change to substantive law over an issue that Congress has not been silent on but expressly rejected. It would affect millions of people who came here illegally and denigrate the democratic rights of all Americans.
Republicans, for a welcome change, don't plan on taking this sitting down. In an op-ed in Politico, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said that Congress will try to prevent Obama from taking this executive action by adding language that would expressly prohibit money from being allocated to implement his order. "Congress," wrote Sessions, "has the power of the purse. The President cannot spend a dime unless Congress appropriates it." Sessions noted that similar prohibitions prevented Obama from closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Other conservative congressmen are calling for a series of short-term bills (continuing resolutions) to fund the government — bills that would prevent a showdown and a government shutdown but would preserve leverage for Republicans to stop Obama's policies. They would agree to short-term funding resolutions until they take over the majority in the Senate early next year and can take more permanent action. They believe they can prohibit funding for implementing Obama's unlawful immigration order and still keep the government running.
It is gratifying that Republicans are thinking more creatively and planning on engaging Obama in a proactive manner. This is a welcome change from their past practice of surrendering or announcing inevitable defeat without a fight.
Obama's planned order is unambiguously and inarguably out of line, and it is on the heels of a stinging rebuke by the voters of his agenda. When he attempts to proceed despite these things, members of Congress will be right to vigorously oppose him, and the people will back them.