Last week, another choreographed display befell Washington as more than 200 illegal immigrants were welcomed into the U.S. Capitol as props for Senator Dick Durbin's (D–IL) immigration reform show. It was a scene designed to tug at the heartstrings and garner support for his pet project, the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow for illegal immigrants between the ages of 15 and 35 who attend college or serve in the military for two years to obtain legal permanent resident status.
From the halls of Congress, those individuals traveled to the gates of the White House, where they "complained that [President Barack] Obama had supported immigration reform with words and not deeds," as Fox News reports. They hoped to pressure the President to bring about immigration reform in the Land of the Free. But behind the curtains, at stage left, Obama's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is already at work enacting provisions of the DREAM Act by executive fiat, despite the fact that the Senate rejected the bill last year by a vote of 55–41.
In a memo from ICE, the department's agents--who are charged with enforcing the country's immigration laws--will be empowered to pursue or dismiss immigration cases against broad categories of illegal aliens who would have benefited from the legislation—without the DREAM Act even becoming law. The agency's rationale? It has limited resources and therefore must exercise prosecutorial discretion where it sees fits. From the memo:
Because the agency is confronted with more administrative violations than its resources can address, the agency must regularly exercise "prosecutorial discretion" if it is to prioritize its efforts.
Coincidentally or conveniently, (pick your adverb), ICE's prosecutorial discretion leads it to adopt enforcement parameters that bring about the same ends as the DREAM Act. Agents are to make enforcement decisions based on "the person's length of presence in the United States," "if the alien came to the United States as a young child," "the person's pursuit of education in the United States," and "whether the person, or the person's immediate relative, has served in the U.S. military," among other factors.
U.S. Senator David Vitter (R–LA) criticized the DREAM Act, ICE's directive, and the Obama Administration's attempt to circumvent the will of Congress by way of rogue administrative action:
The DREAM Act is a cover for the Obama administration’s amnesty agenda . . . The administration has now taken their amnesty push to new levels by attempting to give DHS officials the ability to grant amnesty. Granting amnesty by administrative fiat on an overwhelmingly unpopular policy like the DREAM Act would be a slap in the face to the American taxpayers, and especially to legal immigrants.
Over the weekend, pundits also weighed in on the bill on ABC News's This Week and later in The Sunday Greenroom. Former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools Michelle Rhee expressed hope that the DREAM Act have a future, while Washington Post columnist George Will said that, though it might be an option down the road "The first thing you have to do is secure the border." But those policy solutions require legislative action, emanating from Congress as the Constitution requires.
When it comes to enacting his agenda, the legislative process is not something that registers on President Obama's radar. From the environment to the Internet, civil rights to labor laws, the President has built an administrative bypass around Article I of the Constitution, leaping over the separation of powers and casting aside the founding directive that "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States." Now he's bringing that tactic to our nation's immigration laws, as well.
Our immigration policy, without question, is in need of reform. Amnesty, though, is not the only option--whether it is granted by Congress or surreptitiously awarded by way of Obama's administrative rule. As Heritage's Jena Baker McNeill writes, there are other ways to solve America's immigration problem, and doing nothing is not a strategy. Securing the border, enforcing immigration laws and emphasizing legal immigration are among the incremental reforms that Congress should adopt in working to solve the problem.
Freedom is a powerful thing, and Lady Liberty welcomes immigrants to our nation for a reason. Ours is a land of opportunity, built on the sweat and toil of those who have come from other lands to build better lives for themselves. America's doors should be open to immigrants--as the law provides.
But those laws should not be cast aside lightly to be trod on for the President's personal agenda. America's Founders devised a Constitution rooted in a separation of powers and designed to ensure that no one branch of government usurps the power of another. We celebrate that genius on Independence Day, and the President should respect it from the day he is sworn in until the day he leaves office.