The President’s executive order has two parts, and neither is any worse than the current regime of non-enforcement of our immigration laws: Part one is allowing five million illegal immigrants, typically the parents of children who were born here and are thus considered American citizens (though I dispute that). They have been assured they will not be deported as long as they do not commit crimes here. This is referred to as “prosecutorial discretion,” the choice by the executive branch of the government to deport those it considers more of a threat than others. This is often done when there are insufficient prosecutors or courts to adjudicate all of the violations in a given year. Someone has to choose which cases to prosecute. President Obama has told us how his administration will make the choices. Serial felons get deported first. This is no big deal. The next president can change course and deport this group of illegals if he or she wants to. Congress can also appropriate more money to deport more illegals, and perhaps the backlog will diminish, forcing the President to unprotect some of the five million.
The second part of the order is granting social security numbers to the five million so they can work legally. No law explicitly allows the President to do this. Prior Presidents (Reagan and Bush) have done it for smaller groups of illegals. In the absence of any court decision forbidding the President from doing it, it probably is within his plethora of executive powers. We would be better off if Presidents adhered strictly to their delegated powers, but they don’t. Unless a federal court has standing to decide whether this is an illegal act and enjoins it, and any such order would likely reach the Supreme Court, the executive order cannot be stopped. The Republicans are not going to impeach the President over this, and according to news reports they will not shut down the government to force the president to back down, a type of political extortion. So the President will have his way.
Neither of these two executive actions is a change from the status quo, which is deplorable. But as anyone who follows immigration law enforcement knows, the administration has not deported illegal aliens unless they have committed subsequent felonies once in this country. Its claims to the contrary are bogus and rely on counting the capture of border-crossers deportations. We have 11-15 million illegals and Congress will not appropriate enough money to deport all of them. It should, but it does not, and never offers a good reason why it does not. Deporting the illegal population is simply not a congressional priority. Until it is, and has not been since the Eisenhower administration, most of those people just go on living and working here. They claim to live “in the shadows” of American society. This is laughable. If the government really wanted them gone, it would appropriate enough money to get the job done in one fiscal year. But by not doing that we make a policy choice that is basically what the President has decreed.