The case against Obama's immigration action

Photo by Tamir Kalifa

With the stroke of his pen and the issuance of yet another pedestrian speech, President Obama has managed to unilaterally tear a fissure in the constitutional foundation of the greatest country in human history. 

Our nation has faced many great challenges. From the tumult of our inception, to the Civil War, through the World Wars of the 20th century, we’ve persevered because of our fealty to our principles as embodied in the Constitution. We’re endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. We’re a nation of laws. We defer to the judgment and wisdom of the people, rather than the government. And we rely on the separation of powers to keep us free from the tyranny of a monarchy.

And yet today, we stand on the precipice of a constitutional crisis because the president has abrogated his responsibility to the American people and violated his fidelity to the spirit and letter of our founding document. 

The president, through his actions on immigration announced Thursday night, has determined that the executive branch of government not only has the power and authority to implement and execute the laws of the land, but also has the right to make policy and, indeed, to craft the laws of the people. 

Our Founding Fathers, having lived through the oppression and tyranny of British subjugation, knew all too well of the dangers that lurk in a monarchical system. They understood that a unified authoritarian engendered the abuse of power over the people.              

In Federalist Paper No. 47, James Madison, influenced by the writings of Montesquieu, argued that tyranny results when one branch of government simultaneously holds the powers of another branch. Madison conceded that there would be some overlap of the powers of each branch. But in the end, he wrote, the separation of powers is necessary to maintain the checks and balances that the founders sought.

No one questions the crisis that we face in America because of the scourge and complexity of illegal immigration. Failed or nonexistent immigration policies have materially affected our economy, our social systems, our health care system and our culture. Congress, the states and many previous presidents have attempted on multiple occasions, and largely failed, to address this vexing issue.

But we cannot allow a crisis of condition to lead to the violation of the principles upon which our great nation was founded. If the president can unilaterally act as the legislative and executive branches of government in the face of an immigration crisis, in what circumstances would he not have such authority? Why have a Congress at all if the president is granted lawmaking authority?

Pundits and scholars will dismiss the existential nature of the constitutional crisis that we face as partisan bickering. The reality is that this president’s actions are unprecedented, lack legal authority and threaten the separation of powers contemplated by our founders. It is a dangerous moment in our constitutional history. This is not hyperbole.

While I adamantly oppose amnesty, I’ve been a fierce advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in our country and in Texas. But I also believe we must hew closely to the rule of law, never violating the principles we hold sacred. Our Founding Fathers built the greatest democracy the world has ever seen based on these principles. Let us not allow the fissure created by this president to destroy what Providence has bestowed upon us.

Jason Villalba

State representative, R-Dallas