This week millions of progressive Americans have foolishly focused their anger on an executive order that temporarily halts immigration into the United States from a handful of countries. Meanwhile, conservatives have generally defended the measure. Both responses are disappointing: liberals are focused on the symptoms of the disease, while most conservatives ignored the disease of executive overreach altogether.
If the truth be told, Congress is to blame. Decades ago Congress decided it was easier and politically safer to delegate much of its constitutional authority to the Chief Executive. A misalignment of legal and moral authority has resulted. Today the President reasonably believes he has the legal authority to close America’s doors to individuals who present a threat to America’s safety. However, this was not how our constitutional system was designed to operate.
Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution clearly states that Congress has the authority regulate the naturalization process, and it is therefore it is reasonable to believe Congress also holds the power to regulate immigration. More to the point, the text and spirit of the Constitution does not empower the President to effectively write a new law via executive decree. Assertions to the contrary bespeak a dangerous attachment to the notion of an imperial president, and reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the separation of powers.
Democrats in congress and the media must stop whining; conservatives must likewise cease their hypocritical cheering. The Constitution must be supreme – regardless of the President’s party affiliation. It is time for Congress to claw back the power they have carelessly ceded to the executive branch; it is time for Congress to make difficult choices and take responsibility for the results.
Editor’s note – The Department of Homeland Security’s recent decision to cease enforcing the President’s executive order only underscores the legal and political necessity of thoughtful legislative action by Congress.