Obama’s Dream Act, Impatient President Circumvents Constitution

First published on Finding UnCommon Ground on September 26, 2012.

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The DREAM Act controversy isn’t about the merciful spirit of the act’s content. It’s about President Obama usurping the Constitutional process for what appears to be a political power grab. 

If you want to immigrate to the United States, then play by the rules established in our laws. You’re welcome to come if you pursue American citizenship like millions of legal immigrants before you. The Congressional DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) purposed to build on this idea by providing a legal path to citizenship for people who were brought to America illegally as children.

The DREAM Act was slowly grinding its way through Congress, as most important laws do. A similar bill was first introduced in 2001. In the decade since, the legislation was revised and reintroduced a number of times, most recently last year.

It’s an arduous, frustrating process for a bill to become law. It’s slow and laborious because we want Congress to listen to their constituents, hash it out with each other, build consensus, and address concerns. Like healthcare, immigration is a touchy issue in this country. Reform is needed. But any changes in policy will have huge repercussions. This is the time for great care, diligence, and patience in governance. Unless, of course, you’re President Obama.

This past June, the President decided to take the legislative process out of the hands of Congress. By executive order, he announced his administration would not deport illegal immigrants who met some of the criteria of the yet unpassed DREAM Act. Last month, the Obama administration began granting illegal immigrant children work permits and reprieves from deportation.

Mr. President, are we to understand that if you don’t like the law and you grow impatient in reforming it, you will simply ignore Congress and issue your own directive?

The failure to respect and enforce immigration law was a problem long before Obama. We find ourselves in this current pickle because we failed to enforce immigration law against those who smuggled children here illegally in the first place.

President Obama’s administration has deported a record number of illegal immigrants. His executive order doesn’t grant illegal immigrants the right to vote, so no “new” voters were created by his policy change. This may be an election-year appeal to certain voters, but sidestepping the Constitution is egregious, even for a campaign stunt.

Questions remain. Not everyone is convinced this isn’t about granting amnesty. How to prevent fraud is a concern. So is paying for the economic and social burdens of the President’s unilateral action. And then there’s that whole business about whether immigration agents are to enforce immigration law or uphold the President’s policy.

Why couldn’t President Obama exercise patience, stay the course, and wait for Congress to eventually hammer out a comprehensive, legitimate, bipartisan law? 

There may be method to this madness, or at least a pattern. Nearly a year ago, the President launched a series of executive actions to skip over Congress and enact his economic programs. Sound familiar? The White House called that campaign “We Can’t Wait.”

Catchy title. Poor excuse to ignore the Constitution in economic policy—and now immigration reform. 

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