Last November, president Barack Obama announced an executive order allowing nearly five million undocumented immigrants to “request temporarily relief from deportation” provided they meet certain requirements: Register with the government, pass a criminal background check, pay a fee and submit to taxation.
Immigration opponents seized the moment, but in an odd way. Instead of trotting out their usual unsound arguments against immigration freedom as such, they advanced the claim that Obama’s order constitutes “executive overreach” and “unconstitutional amnesty.”
On February 16, a federal judge in Texas — one of 26 states suing over the order — issued an injunction temporarily blocking implementation of the plan, the first stages of which were scheduled to roll out on February 18.
There’s a lot to consider here, from the years-long standoff over “immigration reform” in Congress leading up to Obama’s order, to the question of whether or not the US Constitution allows Congress to regulate immigration at all (it doesn’t; that power was dreamed up by an activist Supreme Court in 1875).
But sticking to the terms of the suit itself, its “unconstitutional” and “overreach” arguments are unsound on their face.
Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution is clear and unequivocal: “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
Per the 1913 edition of Webster’s, to reprieve is “[t]o delay the punishment of; to suspend the execution of sentence on …”
Obama would be well within his constitutional powers to outright pardon every “illegal alien” residing in the United States. But he stopped well short of that, merely allowing a subset of immigrants to request postponement — reprieve — of deportation under specific conditions. The states’ suit is without merit and deserves immediate dismissal.
But the larger issue remains: What to do about immigration?
The interests of the US would be best served by returning to the older, wiser, more American policies of its first century, during which Congress understood that it had no power whatsoever to regulate immigration. Failing that, we might at least retrench to the relatively relaxed policies of the early 20th century. The US didn’t even issue or require passports until after World War II. Somehow we survived. In fact we thrived.
We know that freedom works. Time to demand that our politicians let it work on immigration. It’s the American way.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “Immigration: ‘Deferred action’ is not ‘executive overreach,’” by Thomas L. Knapp, Macomb County, Michigan Advisor & Source, 02/20/15
- “Deferred action is not ‘executive overreach,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Citizen of Laconia [New Hampshire], 02/18/15