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immigration wars
Unilateralism Undone

The Supreme Court has halted President Obama’s executive order that rewrites immigration law and grants quasi-legal status to nearly five million people in the United States illegally. Despite the President’s rather sanctimonious protestations—“Congress is not going to be able to ignore America forever… we get these spasms of politics around immigration and fear-mongering, and then our traditions and our history and our better impulses kick in”—the ruling actually represents a step toward the restoration of one of the most important American traditions: a limited executive restrained by a system of checks and balances.

As Francis Fukuyama wrote in these pages two years ago: President Obama’s executive orders go far beyond “the implementation of a law passed by Congress.” Instead, he “is in effect making law unilaterally and flying in the face of the expressed will of the people.”

Even putting aside the procedural questions, President Obama’s end-run around Congress has proven particularly corrosive to the fraying political fabric at a time of populist unrest, discontent about mass immigration, and a widespread sense among ordinary voters that their leaders are unaccountable. A President Hillary Clinton who fulfills her promise to “expand” President Obama’s immigration unilateralism will be playing with fire.

But of course a Hillary Clinton presidency is not guaranteed, in which case it’s possible that the President’s allies will end up thanking the Supreme Court’s four conservatives for declining to rubber-stamp President’s immigration diktat. Because a President Trump (or some future nationalist) claiming “broad authority over immigration policy” would be unlikely to share President Obama’s right-side-of-history pieties about the urgent necessity of amnesty, and the fundamental wrongness of people who disagree.

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  • Pete

    Crank up the deportation machinery.

    • ojfl

      Yet another one of the “big” problems, the deportation machinery cannot process 5 million, let alone 11-12 million people, in any reasonable amount of time.

      • Dale Fayda

        Seal up the border, reform the tourist and work visa regime, tighten up the legal immigration criteria and deport 500 – 600K a year, which is very do-able. In a decade you will have make a very sizable dent in the problem.

        • ojfl

          But that requires immigration reform that now will not happen. It became too political, particularly now with this action by the president.

        • Tom

          That, however, would require upsetting campaign donors. Can’t have that.

      • Andrew Allison

        True, but eliminating the benefits of illegal residency might incent some to voluntarily remove themselves and discourage others from coming. Just to be clear, as a legal immigrant myself I’m all in favor of it but, as Europe is discovering to it’s cost, unrestricted immigration is a nightmare.

        • ojfl

          What we should fight against is what Professor Meade keeps saying fails all the time, the blue model. That is what is killing Europe.

      • Pete

        How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

        How to you start a walk of 1,000 miles? One step at a time.

        • ojfl

          But there are already deportations happening so that first step was already taken.

          • Jim__L

            Well, we have a system to build on then.

      • Kevin

        Employment eligibility verification would quickly solve this problem. Illegal immigrants by and large are not going to remain if they can’t work.

        • FriendlyGoat

          That was also true 30 years ago, except for better computers and telecommunication today. What was actually needed back then was a special minimum wage—–say $20-25/hr—–to be paid to illegal immigrants by any employers who hire them with the understanding that IRS and DOL would audit payrolls (as they do anyway) and fine employers double the difference when illegals are found being paid less than the high minimum. No statute of limitation after the initial start-up of such a program. This could have all been done VERY EFFECTIVELY with paperwork enforcers and we could have easily avoided most of the “breaking up families” problem now over-shadowing deportations and the whole issue. We all know, unfortunately, why it never happened—-and we all know now why any interruption of a supply of low-wage guest workers is not going to happen either, with Trump or with anyone else.

  • Andrew Allison

    Halted? Did it ever start? Perhaps vacated would have been a better choice of words.

  • Boritz

    “would be unlikely to share President Obama’s right-side-of-history pieties about the urgent necessity of amnesty, and the fundamental wrongness of people who disagree.”

    But might share his disregard for considerations other than can I get away with it.

  • Blackbeard

    It’s only undone until Hillary gets to name Scalia’s replacement. Then there will be five safe liberal votes on the Court ready to rubber stamp anything the progressives want.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Dandy idea, now that you mention it.

      • Blackbeard

        Yes, and look to Europe to see where that road leads.

        • FriendlyGoat

          I’d rather Europe, in its current mess, learn something from us by us not going down the road they seem to be suddenly taking. We are not going to have a happy world under the philosophy of exclusion. At this level of population growth, it simply is not going to work. We cannot have billions of under-employed people piled into ghettos and expect to go on our happy way. It’s not going to work for Europe—–regardless of political alignments—and it’s not going to work here or anywhere else.

          • Blackbeard

            Would you say then that you an advocate of an open borders policy? I use open borders to mean that anybody can relocate to the US, either to work or become a citizen. There would be some very limited exclusions for wanted criminals and terrorists but basically we would accept as many immigrants as wanted to come, from anyplace.

            If you do support open borders, and many respectable thinkers do, (see, for example, http://openborders.info/bryan-caplan/) aren’t you concerned that we might be overwhelmed? Do we rally have unlimited assimilative capacity?

            And if you don’t support open borders then you must believe that we must manage immigration somehow. How then? And whatever management scheme you favor doesn’t it have to include compassionate but effective enforcement, else we are just back to open borders.

          • FriendlyGoat

            No, we obviously cannot take everyone who would like to come here. Neither can Europe. But the current thinking of “deport em’ all, build a wall” does not strike me as workable either. When the meanness associated with that spirit accelerates, then meanness associated with everything else accelerates too. It ends in jackboot stuff and history has already seen it. We are relegated to muddling through with the most generous hearts we can muster. The world is going to perhaps twelve billion by the end of the century. I didn’t say it’s easy. But the Brexit spirit, the Trump spirit, the Le Pen spirit have no destination that is not violent. America can do better and we probably will. (I prefer optimism.)

          • http://endofpatience.blog.com/ EndOfPatience

            Here’s a suggestion:

            Since you despise the community you find yourself in, and want to replace it with another over our strenuous objection, how about we compromise: You leave and go live with whichever alternate community you prefer to us.

          • FriendlyGoat

            How about we compromise? I’ll read what I want, write what I want, and you can do likewise while closing your eyes every time you see my name. I don’t mind at all if you skip reading my thoughts.

  • GlobalTrvlr

    “The Supreme Court has halted President Obama’s executive order that rewrites immigration law and grants quasi-legal status to nearly five million people in the United States illegally…the ruling actually represents a step toward the restoration of one of the most important American traditions: a limited executive restrained by a system of checks and balances.”

    I guess you missed the president’s next statement about it. The Supreme Court decision would have no impact on how his administration operates or the way it chooses to enforce immigration laws. So much for checks & balances, the constitution, or using the courts to overturn injustices!

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