Before brilliant cartoonist Walt Handelsman drafts a cartoon with political overtones such as the one that appeared in the Nov. 20 Advocate, he should do some research. David Frum’s article in The Atlantic, titled “Reagan and Bush Offer No Precedent for Obama’s Amnesty Order,” includes several reasons why this “favorite Democratic and center-left rebuttal to Republicans angry at reports that President Barack Obama may soon grant residency and working papers to as many as 5 million illegal aliens.”
1) Reagan and Bush acted in conjunction with Congress and in furtherance of a congressional purpose. In 1986, Congress passed a full-blown amnesty, the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, conferring residency rights on some 3 million people. The “broad law generated some unanticipated hard cases. Reagan’s (relatively small) and Bush’s (rather large) executive actions tidied up these anomalies.” The statute was “controversial, [but] neither of those follow-ups was.” Executive action by President Barack Obama, however, would follow not an act of Congress but a prior executive action of his own: his suspension of enforcement against so-called “Dreamers” in June 2012.
Note that in June 2012, after Congress on numerous occasions had introduced and failed to pass a Dream Act, President Obama told his administration to give young illegal aliens rights which Congress had not given. The president “shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed” — the Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section. 3.
2) If all the potential of Obama’s past and next action is realized, he would — acting on his own authority and in direct contravention of the wishes of Congress — have granted residency and work rights to more than double the number of people [given amnesty] by Simpson-Mazzoli.
3) “The 1986 amnesty did not work as promised. The enforcement provisions were ignored or circumvented. Illegal immigration actually increased in the years after the amnesty. Let’s not repeat their mistake.”
4) The invocation of the Reagan and Bush cases exemplifies the bad tendency of political discussion to degenerate into an exchange of scripted talking points. ‘Oh yeah? Well, this guy you like also did this thing you don’t like! ...’?”
The degeneration of political discussion notwithstanding, the fact remains that Presidents Reagan and Bush issued executive orders pursuant to congressional legislation whereas President Obama has issued executive orders in contravention of in-force statutes.
Charles P. Carriere III