The Constitution matters. The much-abused document on which the republic stands has been rescued from the trash bin where President Obama threw it, and still stands between the government and his “progressive” goal of using a flood of illegal immigrants to build a permanent “progressive” majority. The reprieve is welcome but Mr. Obama has not learned much.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled Monday that Mr. Obama exceeded his authority when he issued an executive order a year ago granting temporary amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants in the United States. By ordering the Department of Homeland Security to supply the illegals with work permits and immunity from deportation, the court concluded that the president effectively rewrote the nation’s Immigration and Nationality Act. The president has no authority to do that. Making laws is the job of Congress. The Constitution says so.
The court used Mr. Obama’s own words to rebuke him. When a critic once told the president that the immigration law is very clear, the president said “what you are not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law.” In his opinion for the 2-1 majority, Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote: “At oral argument, and despite being given several opportunities, the attorney for the United States was unable to reconcile that remark with the position that the [Obama administration] now takes.”
Mr. Obama’s attempt to usurp congressional authority to regulate immigration was the act of an autocrat, not a democrat. Mr. Obama wants to block the deportation of young adults who arrived in the United States as children, and he seeks to expand the criteria for amnesty to include illegal immigrant parents whose children were born on American soil, and are citizens by birthright. Texas and 25 other states sued on the grounds that while the president is entitled to administrative leeway, such a sweeping measure involving as many as 5 million persons would cause grave financial hardship for the states. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas hailed the court’s decision: “Do we have a rule of law or do we not? The appeals court said that even the president is subject to the rule of law.”
But when one door closes on Mr. Obama’s attempt to circumvent the separation of powers as set out in the Constitution, he tries to open another. The Justice Department said it would appeal the appeals court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the court is likely to take the appeal. A final decision could be rendered just in time for Mr. Obama’s farewell.
The president clearly has big plans for remaking America. He is said to be considering appointment of Heather Fong, the former sheriff of San Francisco County and a staunch supporter of the sanctuary cities movement, as chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. The blanket amnesty that Mr. Obama wants has been put on hold by the courts, but he intends to use every artifice his lawyers can invent. Putting Miss Fong in charge of enforcing the law on the border further demonstrates his contempt for laws he doesn’t like.
Harry S. Truman put a slogan on his desk in the Oval Office declaring that “The buck stops here.” Barack Obama will be remembered for a message of his own: “Laws are made for me to break.”