Immigration: Political integrity, or the lack thereof
In his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope”, then Senator Barack Obama laid out the argument against illegal immigration:
“[T]here’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our Southern border—a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before.”
”Not all these fears are irrational,” he wrote.
“The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen in this country for over a century,” Obama noted. “If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy as a whole—especially by keeping our workforce young, in contrast to an increasingly geriatric Europe and Japan—it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.”
So why is he now contemplating doing, in a down economy with high unemployment and high deficits (and stretched welfare system), exactly what he previously claimed was harmful to America and its workers? Has he somehow “evolved” in his thinking to a belief that his logically sound 2006 argument is now poppycock? That flooding the US with immigrant workers will somehow keep wages up and not put a strain on the “already overburdened safety net?” It seems pretty counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
But then, let us not forget that this is the guy who condemned George W. Bush for his use of executive orders and executive overreach and promised not to do it if he were elected to the presidency:
“I taught constitutional law for ten years. I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that were facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.”
Of course, he hasn’t “reverse[d]” it, has he? And past public polls have shown an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t support the use of executive orders to circumvent Congress (and let us not forget that he had an overwhelming Democratic majority for his first two years in office and essentially ignored the immigration issue).
So there is no public will at work here. There is only the will to power of this White House.
Which is why the thinking liberal’s move, if this action goes forward, will be to invoke structural forces, flaws inherent in our constitutional order, to justify Obama’s unilateralism. This won’t be a completely fallacious argument: Presidential systems like ours have a long record, especially in Latin America, of producing standoffs between executive and legislative branches, which tends to make executive power grabs more likely. In the United States this tendency has been less dangerous — our imperial presidency has grown on us gradually; the worst overreaches have often been rolled back. But we do seem to be in an era whose various forces — our open-ended post-9/11 wars, the ideological uniformity of the parties — are making a kind of creeping caudillismo more likely.
But if that evil must come, woe to the president who chooses it. And make no mistake, the president is free to choose. No immediate crisis forces his hand; no doom awaits the country if he waits. He once campaigned on constitutionalism and executive restraint; he once abjured exactly this power. There is still time for him to respect the limits of his office, the lines of authority established by the Constitution, the outcome of the last election.
Or he can choose the power grab, and the accompanying disgrace.
And there’s little doubt, he will choose the latter and further add to his reputation as someone who has no political integrity at all.