The latest GOP fear-mongering tactic is all about immigration. Recently, President Barack Obama issued a limited and conditional amnesty to about 5 million illegal immigrants who live and work here in the U.S. This action was not very different from similar actions taken by both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Arguing that those acts were different because Congress was in favor of them is just partisan legal hair-splitting.
The fact that the president has the legal authority to grant this amnesty is pretty clear. Every member of the executive branch from the cop on the beat to the district attorney to the president of the United States has what is referred to as “prosecutorial discretion.” This means that they have the authority to decide whether or not to enforce a particular law in any set of circumstances. When the DA decides not to pursue charges against someone, that is the end of it. There is no appeal or higher authority who can order the case to go forward. The only remedy available to someone who disagrees is the ballot box.
In the president’s case, he also has the constitutional power to grant pardons, amnesties and commutations of sentences to anyone who has committed an offense against federal law (such as being in the U.S. illegally) except in cases of impeachment.
This power is possibly the broadest grant of authority in our Constitution. There is no appeal from a presidential pardon, amnesty or commutation. Neither our courts nor our Congress can overrule such an act.
In many cases where Congress will not act to right a wrong or fix a problem, it is up to the president or a judge to take action. The 12 million folks who are here illegally did not show up after Obama was elected. They have been coming here for decades. No president in the modern era has enforced immigration laws 100 percent. Enforcement is limited by funding and other factors. Our immigration system is dysfunctional.
Obama has said in the past that he cannot fix our immigration system. He was correct. He has not fixed it. He has merely patched one defective part of it.
It is up to Congress to permanently and fairly fix the system. The Senate has passed a bipartisan immigration bill. Both Democrats and Republicans came together, debated the issues and settled on a solution.
When this bill got to the Republican-controlled House — the Republican Speaker of the House refused to even bring it to the floor for debate.
Speaker John Boehner should bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote. That’s the only possible way to move toward a real solution to the problem.