Obama administration officials are now busy distancing themselves from a controversial draft memorandum outlining various ways to bypass Congress and administratively grant amnesty to tens of thousands of illegal immigrants. But the leaked internal memo has struck a nerve in the body politic precisely because it is only the latest of a growing list of examples of the Obama White House seeking to circumvent the popular will.
For example, while hiding behind a misguided Supreme Court decision that gave it the power to declare carbon dioxide a “pollutant,” the Environmental Protection Agency has launched what amounts to an end run around Congress with a major revision of the 1970 Clean Air Act. Millions of previously unregulated commercial facilities, including small office buildings, stores and commercial kitchens, will soon be ensnared in stifling regulations that Congress never authorized or approved.
The attempted power grab outlined in the immigration memo is a similar effort by the executive branch to breach the Constitution’s separation of powers clause. The only difference is that instead of applying a law clearly meant for large factories and power plants to the neighborhood grocery store, the amnesty memo would direct the executive branch to stop enforcing existing federal laws concerning wide swaths of illegal immigrants. This would be done without a single vote being taken in Congress, which clearly intended the laws it passed to be enforced.
Addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Alejandro Mayorkas and tellingly entitled “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” the 11-page memo proposes a nonlegislative amnesty that uses executive orders and other legally questionable methods as the basis to circumvent congressional intent. “It is theoretically possible to grant deferred action (i.e. non enforcement) to an unrestricted number of unlawfully present individuals,” the memo cheerfully points out. Its four authors include USCIS chief counsel Roxana Bacon and chief of policy and strategy Denise Vanison, two former immigration attorneys who in effect are urging a modern version of the antebellum Sen. John C. Calhoun’s nullification theory.
Even as this outrageous memo was being circulated among multiple federal agencies and officials, the Obama Justice Department was preparing to sue the state of Arizona to stop officials there from enforcing a new immigration law. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and other Senate Republicans correctly characterized the memo’s recommendations as a “large-scale, de facto amnesty.” Repeated public opinion surveys have shown most Americans reject amnesty. This stealth approach has apparently become the administration’s preferred method of dealing with major issues, but it’s a cynical ploy that undermines Congress and the president’s dwindling credibility as well.