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EDITORIAL: Contempt for the law

If the president doesn’t like a law, he won’t enforce it

- - Monday, August 5, 2013

President Obama doesn't like the law ordering illegal aliens deported, so Border Patrol agents were ordered not to obey the law. They would be punished if they did. The union representing the immigration officers sued to force the government to follow the law. A federal judge in Texas dismissed the suit Wednesday. The president and his men might mute their cheers, however, because the suit was dismissed on a technicality.

In June 2012, the Department of Homeland Security issued an order limiting detention of illegal immigrants — or as a candid voice at the White House might call them, undocumented voters. Only trespassers with serious criminal records or who have repeatedly violated immigration laws should be sent home. Border agents who tried to enforce the law faced severe punishment, possibly firing, if they violated the rule.

Judge Reed O'Connor, a 2007 appointee of President George W. Bush on the court in Dallas, said he thinks the administration's order violates federal law, which imposes a "mandatory obligation on immigration officers to initiate removal proceedings against aliens they encounter," and that the agents who sued "were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Department of Homeland Security has implemented a program contrary to congressional mandate."

But his authority, he said, is restricted by the Civil Service Reform Act. If the Border Patrol agents want to correct their inability to do their job without the risk of being fired, they should use the civil service appeal channel, which "provides a comprehensive and exclusive scheme for resolving employment disputes brought by federal employees against the federal government."

The Border Patrol union is considering doing that, as well as appealing Judge O'Connor's dismissal of the suit. "This is without question a lawless amnesty being imposed upon America," says Kris W. Kobach, attorney for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and officers. "All Americans, regardless of how they feel about amnesty, should be concerned when a president can flagrantly ignore the law and violate the Constitution. There has to be a forum in which the rule of law can be restored."

When the House takes up immigration reform with the Senate, it should consider fixing this with needed legislation. An amendment to the law could state clearly that federal law enforcement officers can't be fired or sanctioned for enforcing federal immigration law.

The administration seems determined to expand the Democratic voting base, and if it has to flout the law to do it, it has demonstrated that it will. President Obama hasn't been able to enact the Dream Act through the legislative process, so he imposed it through executive action. This reflects an arrogant belief that he knows best what the law ought to be and if Congress won't do what he thinks it should do, he will do it his way.

In his dissent in Olmstead v. United States in 1928, Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote that "if the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." This applies to presidents, too.

The Washington Times