- - Monday, May 5, 2014

President Obama says it’s up to him to decide which laws he will faithfully execute and which ones he will ignore or alter with the stroke of his pen. The White House has gotten away with it so far, inspiring copycats in state government who think they, too, can bypass the legislature and a state constitution.

Last week, Mark R. Herring, the Democratic state attorney general, ignored the work of his former colleagues in the General Assembly with a unilateral decree that college-age illegal aliens will receive the “in-state” discount meant for Virginia residents. Such radicalism is from the attorney general who campaigned as a moderate and won by a mere 900 votes. Mere, but enough, but with no claim to a mandate.

Republicans, who have a lock on the House of Delegates, groaned to hear Mr. Herring announce his giveaway to a room full of Hispanic students and amnesty advocates at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria. This cafeteria school of law enforcement follows his refusal earlier this year to perform his constitutional duties to defend the state’s ban of homosexual marriage.

“Our esteemed AG once again making up the law,” tweeted Delegate Gregory D. Habeeb, Salem Republican. Agreed House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican: “These issues should be considered, discussed and eventually resolved through the legislative and democratic processes, not by the unilateral actions of one individual.”

Virginia House Republicans are stuck in the same pickle barrel with their federal counterparts in Washington, who must deal with Eric Holder, the U.S. attorney general cited for contempt of Congress. Aside from conferring that mark of dishonor, the House hasn’t done much about Mr. Obama’s unilateral declaration that he will pick and choose which immigration laws he will enforce. He likes the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative that so far has granted de facto amnesty to about 8,100 young illegals in Virginia.

Taxpayer-financed tuition subsidies are worth tens of thousands of dollars. At the University of Virginia, for example, undergraduate tuition and fees this fall will total $12,998 for Virginia residents (including the illegal aliens), and out-of-state students will pay $42,184. This means, for another cruel example, that legal U.S. residents from the neighboring states of Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee will pay $29,186 more per year than illegals from Mexico or Guatemala. How fair is that?

Barring a special session, the General Assembly won’t be back until January, so all such victims can do for now is search for a state judge willing to grant an injunction to block the miscarriage of justice. If there’s no pushback, Mr. Herring will be further emboldened to impose the liberal agenda that he and Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a fellow Democrat, can’t win fair and square in the legislature.

There’s already talk in Richmond that Mr. McAuliffe is thinking about trying an end run around the General Assembly to impose his top legislative priority, the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. He’s counting on Mr. Herring to find a legal hook to hang it on.

The leap into lawlessness is a short one when officials in the executive branch think they can dispense with the checks and balances that are fundamental to constitutional law. They’ve been taught that when the Constitution becomes inconvenient, trash it.