Straight Talk from Al Jacobs
BARACK OBAMA’S PROCLAMATION
My local newspaper’s editorial on President Obama’s November 20, 2014, executive order to allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, is not commendatory. Following the headline “Obama presidency’s lowest moment,” it states: “Immigration policy is the purview of the legislative branch, and the decision not to enforce the laws of the land is executive nullification which will plague the republic long after his [Obama’s] time in office has passed.” Those views were quickly endorsed by Republican House Speaker John Boehner who said he “would not stand by and let Obama accomplish his plan.” Republican Senator Rand Paul, a 2016 presidential hopeful, echoed those sentiments with: “President Obama is not above the law and has no right to issue Executive Amnesty. His actions blatantly ignore the Separations of Powers and the principles our country was founded on.”
I’m reminded of another executive proclamation also received with ambivalence, this one on September 22, 1862, by Republican President Abraham Lincoln. He declared: “By virtue of the power vested in me as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy . . . on January 1st, 1863, all persons held as slaves within any [area] in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” That executive order also received wide criticism, not only from pro-slavery interests, but from many abolitionists who proclaimed it to be hypocritical in that it only offered freedom to those slaves over which the president had neither authority nor control.
I’m not certain how President Obama’s ploy will play out in the near future, inasmuch as the nation’s attitude toward immigrants is clearly irrational. However, I can visualize its political effect over the long term. Let’s consider the result of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. His Republican Party became the uncontested champion of America’s black citizens and, accordingly, the recipient of their support for the next seventy years. Eleven of the succeeding thirteen elected presidents were Republican, and the party dominated congress during that time. Except for the former Confederate states, known as the Deep South, which maintained Democratic Party dominance through suppression of its black population, the Republican Party ran the nation. Most certainly their margin of victory in many elections relied upon a dependable black vote.
I foresee a similar pattern emerging from President Obama’s Immigration Proclamation. Of the United States’ 317 million population, some 54 million, or 17%, are Hispanics. In addition, directly to the south are 120 million Mexicans, masses of who are eager to migrate northward. It takes little imagination to understand why the Democratic Party will become permanently favored by Hispanic voters and soon become dominant, particularly as leaders of the Republican Party appear to demonstrate no comprehension of the demographics involved.
Whether the president is legally entitled to take the action he’s taking is of little consequence. This is not a legalistic question, but rather one of pragmatism. Despite claims to the contrary, what the Constitution allows will conform to whatever the authority in charge can successfully foist off. Examples of clearly unconstitutional activities by former presidents include John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts, Lincoln’s suspension of the right of habeas corpus, and Franklin Roosevelt’s incarceration of 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent. In the final analysis, the matter may be summarized as: What I’m doing is going to be done; Constitutionality be hanged!
Make no mistake; the United States is changing. We may argue it’s for the better or the worse, but change is inevitable. Each of us must accommodate ourselves to this evolving world. The final outcome is uncertain; let’s hope for the best.
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