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Rule by decree

The Obama administration announced last week that it would suspend deportation proceedings against many illegal immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety. Robert Pear explained the new policy this way in the New York Times:

The new policy is expected to help thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as young children, graduated from high school and want to go on to college or serve in the armed forces.

White House and immigration officials said they would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” to focus enforcement efforts on cases involving criminals and people who have flagrantly violated immigration laws.

Under the new policy, the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, can provide relief, on a case-by-case basis, to young people who are in the country illegally but pose no threat to national security or to the public safety.

The decision would, through administrative action, help many intended beneficiaries of legislation that has been stalled in Congress for a decade. The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, has argued that “these young people should not be punished for their parents’ mistakes.”

The new policy, however, is broader than Pear’s account indicates. Lynn Sweet’s more detailed Chicago Sun-Times post includes quotes and primary materials that make it clear the policy applies to all illegals whose presence cannot be determined to raise a threat to public safety. The new policy is something like amnesty by executive decree. Those Republican congressmen who have objected to the new policy on this ground are on to something.

Only last month, addressing The Race, Obama disclaimed the authority to reform immigration policy on his own:

THE PRESIDENT: Now, I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know very well the real pain and heartbreak that deportations cause. I share your concerns and I understand them. And I promise you, we are responding to your concerns and working every day to make sure we are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane and best possible way. Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. (Applause.) And believe me, right now dealing with Congress —

AUDIENCE: Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can!

THE PRESIDENT: Believe me — believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting.

(Laughter.)

I promise you. Not just on immigration reform.

(Laughter.)

But that’s not how — that’s not how our system works.

What is to be said? I think that the new policy reflects much that is wrong with the Obama administration. For example:

1. The new policy is bad policy, giving no recognition to its predictable consequences. It extends a welcome mat to those who have not yet made it to the United States illegally and are able to make it over the border through self-help. It might make sense as part of comprehensive immigration reform. By itself, it is a serious mistake.

2. The new policy undercuts American sovereignty. For Obama and liberals of the New York Times variety, this is an attraction. For the rest of us, not so much.

3. The new policy is formulated in terms of prosecutorial discretion and the wise use of resources, but this simply disingenuous — public relations for chumps.

4. The Obama administration has astronomically increased the budgets of federal agencies virtually since the day it took office. If additional resources are needed for immigration enforcement, the administration could seek to reallocate the necessary funds from other agencies or from elsewhere in the federal budget.

5. One would think that in a post 9/11 world, immigration enforcement would be among our highest law enforcement priorities.

6. The new policy is pure politics. With an eye to the 2012 election, it is geared to pump up members of The Race and others of their persuasion.

7. The new policy is one that does not enjoy political support. Democrats were unable to pass it as law when they controlled both branches of Congress during the first two years of the Obama administration.

8. The adoption of the new policy as a matter of executive fiat is therefore profoundly offensive to our system of government.

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