Charles Krauthammer: The immigration bombshell: naked lawlessness
“With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations (of immigrants brought here illegally as children) through executive order, that's just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.”
— President Obama, March 28, 2011
WASHINGTON — Those laws remain on the books. They have not changed. Yet Obama last week suspended these very deportations — granting infinitely renewable “deferred action” with attendant work permits — thereby unilaterally rewriting the law. And doing precisely what he himself admits he is barred from doing.
Obama had tried to change the law. In late 2010, he asked Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which offered a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants. Congress refused.
When subsequently pressed by Hispanic groups to simply implement the law by executive action, Obama explained that it would be illegal. “Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. … But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written.”
That was then. Now he's gone and done it anyway. It's obvious why. The election approaches and his margin is slipping. He needs a big Hispanic vote and this is the perfect pander. After all, who will call him on it? A supine press? Congressional Democrats?
With a single Homeland Security Department memo, the immigration laws no longer apply to 800,000 people. By what justification? Prosecutorial discretion, says Janet Napolitano.
This is utter nonsense. Prosecutorial discretion is the application on a case-by-case basis of considerations of extreme and extenuating circumstances. No one is going to deport, say, a 29-year-old illegal immigrant whose parents had just died in some ghastly accident and who is the sole support for a disabled younger sister and ailing granny. That's what prosecutorial discretion is for. The Napolitano memo is nothing of the sort. It's the unilateral creation of a new category of persons — a class of 800,000 — who, regardless of individual circumstance, are hereby exempt from current law so long as they meet certain biographic criteria.