Do the rule of law and representative government have a future in America? The legacy of the Obama Administration on immigration certainly makes one wonder. From its beginning the administration has simply ignored immigration laws while dismantling immigration law enforcement. The union representing agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tried to sound the alarm about this subversion, but the warning pretty much went unheeded.1
Basically, the administration acted to put most illegal aliens off-limits to deportation, claiming it didn’t have the resources to round them up. Most significantly, it never requested more resources, and when states attempted to assist federal enforcement by passing immigration laws, the administration responded by suing to overturn those laws.
But many illegal alien advocates were not satisfied with even these accommodations. They demanded that Obama simply decree amnesty for most or all of the illegal aliens living in the United States. The president correctly replied that under the constitutional provision of separation of powers, he didn’t have the authority to do so.2
To him, at the time, that probably wasn’t a problem because he assumed that Congress eventually would pass an amnesty bill. It failed in 2010 to pass an amnesty for “Dreamers,” the children of illegal aliens, but three years later Congress appeared ready and willing to enact a full-scale amnesty. That didn’t happen, thanks in large part to strong opposition from the American people.
Shortly thereafter, Obama simply ignored what he previously said and unilaterally proclaimed legal status and work permits for five million illegal aliens. Republican leaders before the 2014 congressional elections issued sharp criticism of this constitutional usurpation, and promised decisive action to stop it. But this sound and fury accomplished nothing, and many suspect that’s what they intended. The outrage was simply to spur the Republican base to the polls. Quite a few of GOP leaders, in the thrall of cheap labor interests, didn’t really seem so opposed to Obama’s action.
Effective opposition came from 26 states which filed a lawsuit for an injunction against Obama’s action. A federal court upheld their motion, and the case went to the Supreme Court which voted four to four on the case. That tie decision allowed the lower court decision to stand, but absent a majority vote that ruling did not set a legal precedent, so the case is still unresolved.3
It’s a sobering situation. The executive branch brazenly ignores the Constitution, and Congress does nothing, while the Supreme Court can’t muster a majority to defend the separation of powers—the constitutional basis of our liberties. How did we get to this situation? And why is there relatively little outrage about it?
For our form of government to work, there must be—despite our differences—some degree of consensus and goodwill among all parties. Without this sense of commonality, compromise is impossible, and compromise is the essence of the give-and-take necessary for representative government to function.
Obviously consensus has broken down on immigration, with the pro-immigration side believing that it’s entitled to get what it wants without regard for rules and compromise. Perhaps this attitude had its beginning during the debate on the 1965 immigration act. Coming as it did during the heyday of the Civil Rights movement, some of the proponents of the act saw it as an extension of Civil Rights legislation to the entire world, in effect an offer of equal opportunity for foreigners to come to America. Having that view, the proponents had a sense of moral mission, if not outright moral superiority.
Nevertheless, they were willing to concede that opponents were not monsters, and that they had legitimate concerns. One famous example was Sen. Edward Kennedy’s promise that the bill would not flood the country with a million immigrants a year and overturn our country’s ethnic balance. A degree of goodwill also existed twenty years later when Congress debated the 1986 amnesty bill. Supporters of amnesty (among them Sen. Kennedy) agreed that amnesty should happen only once, lest it set a precedent of undermining the rule of law. Also, they agreed to a compromise allowing beefed-up immigration enforcement of immigration law in exchange for amnesty.4
The promises in both instances weren’t kept, but at least into the 1990s it appeared that the opposing sides could at least work together within the system to set policy. That began to change during the nineties with the rising influence of Cultural Marxism, popularly known as Political Correctness (PC). It is a creed of “tolerance” which tolerates no disagreement with its dogmas. It specializes in the demonization of opponents, in a way reminiscent of the Communist regimes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. To illustrate, Stalin depicted the hard-working peasants of the Ukraine as kulaks (cheaters) as he moved to destroy them.5
Similarly, in present-day America, PC informs us that all opponents of mass immigration, legal and illegal, are the equivalents of kulaks. They are people motivated solely by hatred, fear, and ignorance who have no legitimate arguments or positions. What arguments they present are merely subterfuge to hide their racism, hate, nativism, etc.
PC immigration advocates see their agenda as an updated version of the Civil Rights movement. In their fervid imagination, any limits on immigration are the moral equivalent of Jim Crow ordinances to keep out blacks, and ICE agents who deport illegal aliens are no different from Bull Connor’s men who turned fire hoses and dogs on black demonstrators. This analogy with illegal aliens is most ironic given that the Civil Rights movement stressed the importance of citizenship (specifically for black citizens) and the rule of law. Advocacy for illegal aliens undermines both.
Such incongruities in no way diminish the zeal of the PC brigades. In their minds their moral imperative trumps the mere text of the Constitution. Thus when Congress failed to pass amnesty, illegal alien advocates affirmed—without the least reservation—that Obama’s only option at that point was to rule by decree.
Can this tide of zealotry be turned back so that moderation and consensus can guide policy-making again? Certainly it won’t be easy. PC is well entrenched in the leading institutions of our society, particularly the media. And many people fear its shrill and unscrupulous accusations. At the same time, the prospect of PC running unchecked should be even more fearful to the lovers of traditional America.
With this understanding perhaps they mount an effective resistance. Genuine immigration reformers in particular must overcome their long-standing defensive mentality and go on the rhetorical offensive with the objective of claiming and holding the moral high ground. To do so they must state without hesitation that PC is a moral sham and quite often a cover to hide agendas for dictatorial power, ethnic chauvinism, and greed. Specifically, they must affirm that advocacy of open borders and the trivialization of citizenship raise the issue of the advocates’ patriotism and loyalty.
Regardless of what one may think of Donald Trump, he has demonstrated that it’s possible to stand up to the bullies and bigots of PC. If a lot more Americans would do likewise, perhaps PC could be driven to the extreme fringes of political discourse where it belongs. In that situation a new consensus on immigration and other issues might emerge. This is not to say that there would be full agreement on those issues. But at least there would be grounds for common action without the influence of a poisonous ideology.
Obama’s decree was only a foretaste of
what’s in store if present trends continue. Americans must exercise their
freedom to end PC. If not, PC will end their freedom.