On Friday, I spoke to Neil Cavuto on Fox Business News following President Obama’s announcement that he will allow nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. I’m a big supporter of immigration reform as these two articles demonstrate:
- San Diego Union-Tribune: Immigration reform needed for global competitiveness
- Politico: How to renew the American dream
But, I’m also a believer in our Constitution which establishes the legal foundation upon which this great nation was built. That’s why I can’t support the President making immigration reforms for political purposes via unilateral executive action.
Immigration reform requires legislative action, not an executive mandate. On that point, last week, numerous business executives, political leaders and I sent a letter to the Republican members of Congress imploring them to reform our broken immigration system. The letter encourages Congress to pass legislation that “discourages the rising tide of illegal immigration while fixing the unnecessary obstacles that send talented individuals elsewhere and make it harder for American companies to compete, grow and create jobs for American workers.” The letter ran in the Washington Times as part of a 16-page supplement that also featured opinion-editorials by prominent Republicans in support of immigration reform. To read or download the full supplement, click here. The Republican leadership supports immigration reform. Why then did the President take this dangerous and unprecedented action?
The immigrant community should understand better than most the potential dangers of a President acting outside the parameters of his constitutional powers. Either they or their parents came to this country for the same reason my grandparents did – a free society that offered economic opportunities. The countries they came from often did not respect the rule of law, lacked a system designed to protect the people from tyranny, and were dominated by an oppressive class unrestrained by the rule of law. By ignoring our Constitution and deciding that he had the right to legislate because Congress wouldn’t do what he wanted, President Obama acted like he was the ruler of one of these oppressive regimes, endangering our liberty and putting people in this country in jeopardy of losing respect for both the law and the system that produces those laws. Let me be clear: we absolutely need immigration reform, but it’s wrong to take a cynical and political approach. It’s not about electoral payoffs; it’s about doing the right thing for people and families who have lived in the shadows far too long.
It’s not that the President was unaware of what he was doing or the limits on his legitimate authority. Prior to issuing this executive order, even President Obama stated that “The notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case.” In President Obama’s own words:
- “That’s not how our Constitution is written.”
- “I can’t simply ignore laws.”
- “I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books.”
He has specifically acknowledged that “[w]e’re a nation of laws, that’s part of our tradition,” and that “I’m not a dictator, I’m the President.” One has to wonder what changed. It certainly wasn’t our Constitution. Perhaps it was the electoral winds that recently changed.
There is great value in the legal system we have in place. In fact it’s so valuable that people from all over the world have left and still desire to leave their homes and families to come here. We shouldn’t support a president who endangers that system just because we like what he’s doing. What if another President used Obama’s precedent to issue an executive order that, for example, stopped enforcement of certain civil rights laws? Empowering the President to ignore or rewrite the law is an exceptionally dangerous two-edged sword. We have three branches of government and a balance of power between them for a reason. Working with the new Congress, President Obama could achieve comprehensive immigration reform. We shouldn’t allow him to desert that long term goal for very dangerous short term benefits. I understand that Democrats want to reverse their political fortunes, but using undocumented immigrants as pawns is wrong. I want those immigrants to join us on the journey to a great American future and I want Congress and the President to work together to achieve real, lasting reform.
Unfortunately, the truth is, the President does not want the immigration issue to go away. If the Administration and the Democrats can keep this issue unresolved and the debate alive, they believe it can get them votes. What Obama’s executive order did is, at best, transitory. The next president could rescind it in 30 seconds. If the Democrats wanted real and lasting immigration reform, they would have enacted it between 2008 and 2010 when they controlled all three branches of government. If Obama wanted immigration reform, knowing that the incoming Republican congressional leadership also wants real reform, he wouldn’t have done the one thing Republican leaders unequivocally told him could destroy the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform. The Democrats don’t want to resolve this issue. They want it to look like they’re trying to resolve it. As long as the immigrant community keeps voting for Democrats in the belief that they will resolve this issue, the issue will never be resolved. Democrats’ words are pretty, but words must translate into legitimate, lasting and comprehensive actions. So far, they have not.
Republicans should not take the political bait. This is not a political battle; it’s a moral battle. They should legislate. They should govern. The Republican leadership wants to fix our broken immigration system. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the Democrats who need this issue to stay alive. Which explains President Obama’s unilateral action that makes it look like he’s acting for the immigrant community when he’s really trying to kill the possibility of any real reform. At the very least, his actions have empowered the wing of the Republican party that doesn’t trust him and doesn’t want real reform. If we want real reform, the smartest thing we can do is support candidates who go beyond empty promises and deliver results. In the midterms, that’s exactly what America did. We sent a message to this President more clearly than any midterm message sent to any President in our nation’s history: “STOP. We want our government to work.” Apparently, that message didn’t get through the fog of his political ambition.
The future of this nation, which has been a home for immigrants from all over the world, depends on our electing and supporting leaders responsive to our needs, rather than those bent on expanding their political power.
To view my interview with Neil Cavuto, click here.