It is surely not surprising that the New York Times has announced its approval of President Obama’s executive action on immigration enforcement even before the president announces it to the nation tonight. The Times has been encouraging such action since Obama announced last summer it would be forthcoming, and the Thursday morning endorsement, anticipating the president’s address to the nation tonight, is but the latest in a series of editorials encouraging the chief executive to enact by executive order the provisions of the Senate’s Bipartisan Immigration Reform Act, despite inaction by the House of Representatives.
Though the Senate passed the bill in June 2013, the House leadership had still not brought it up for a vote a year later. So on June 30 of this year, President Obama publicly vented his frustration over the “failure of the House Republicans to pass a darn bill” and announced he would act on immigration reform “without Congress.” Tonight he will spell out his plan, which is expected to include temporary safety from deportation, along with work permits, for some four to five million people now residing in the United States illegally.
“Some immigrant advocacy groups have already denounced the plan as too cautious and too small,” notes the Times editorial board, which itself faults the as-yet-unannounced plan for an anticipated ban on healthcare for the undocumented under the Affordable Care Act, and for not drawing the “circle of inclusion as large as possible — up to the eight million or so who might have qualified under an ambitious bipartisan bill that passed the Senate last year.”
Indeed, a bill to grant legal status, work permits and a path to citizenship to roughly 2/3 of those now residing here illegally is indeed “ambitious,” though the senators who passed the bill won’t be the ones paying the price for admittingmore undocumented workers into a labor force that already has too many unemployed and far too many underemployed Americans trying to survive on part-time jobs. But Obama’s plan is even more ambitious in a different sense of the word. The president said in his post-election news conference that subsequent action by Congress would supersede whatever executive action he takes. But he is enough of a student of American political history to know the practical impossibility of rescinding a benefit or entitlement once granted. To take such action and then expect Congress to match or exceed it with legislation is to put the constitutional cart before the horse. It is ambitious in the sense that Caesar was ambitious. It is usurpation.
The Constitution, in its very first article declares: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.” Both houses must pass a bill before it becomes law, while the president, according to his powers and duties as set forth in Article II, must “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”