(Providence, Rhode Island) – Lots of controversy in the nation’s capitol this week as President Obama signed his Executive Order on immigration. It made me wonder about the history of Presidential Executive Orders, and I found lots of fascinating facts and trivia, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:
“Immigration” – In a nutshell, here are the main points of President Obama’s Executive Order on immigration. Adult illegal immigrants - who have been in the country five years or more - will be exempt from deportation if they have children who were born in the United States (making the children legal citizens), and provided the adult parents are not wanted; nor are being prosecuted; nor are convicted of any criminal offense. Yes, that’s a mouthful! It is not amnesty; it is not citizenship. They must register and apply for work permits (requiring them to pay taxes), and they won’t be deported.
“The Legal Battle” – Whether the President’s Executive Order violates the Constitution remains to be seen, and is likely the subject of a court fight. But as a practical matter - as the nation’s Chief Executive Officer - he can at least tell agencies under his jurisdiction what to do. He can tell Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not to conduct raids or deportations simply as a directive. But, can he put in a whole host of arbitrary conditions, such as the five-year residency requirement? That sounds more like lawmaking, which is the purview of Congress. This is where the Constitution gets conflicting and sticky. It’s a “Separation of Powers” versus “Checks and Balances” standoff! A classic Constitutional struggle – and court case!
“Emancipation” – I wondered about the most famous Executive Orders from the 238 years of our nation’s history. Perhaps the most noted is the Emancipation Proclamation from President Lincoln, freeing the slaves in Confederate states.
“WPA” – Another legendary Executive Order came from President Franklin Roosevelt which created the WPA - the Works Progress Administration. At the depths of the Great Depression, it provided meaningful work for over eight-million people. These weren’t just make-work jobs either. The WPA created over 600,000 miles of roads, thousands of parks, and hundreds of airports. Maybe we need a new WPA, today!
“The Downside” – While few would decry the benefits of freeing slaves and creating jobs, not all Executive Orders are looked upon so favorably today. President Franklin Roosevelt – who gets credit for the WPA – also gets a black mark in the history books for the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. More than 110,000 – most of them U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry - were rounded up and imprisoned after the attack on Pearl Harbor. There was no due process; there were no trials; and, they were imprisoned soley for being Japanese.
“By the Numbers” – President Obama has been widely criticized for “overuse” of the Executive Order, having now issued 194 is his six years in the White House. Has he gone overboard? Is his total excessive? You be the judge! Of our most recent two-term (or partial two-term) Presidents, here are the totals: George W. Bush, 291; Bill Clinton, 364; Ronald Reagan, 381; Richard Nixon, 346; Lyndon Johnson, 325; and Dwight Eisenhower, 484. Even one-term (or less) Presidents were on pace to surpass Mr. Obama. George H.W. Bush, 166; Jimmy Carter, 320; Gerald Ford, 169; and, John Kennedy, 214. President Obama – on average – will probably wind up on the low-end in terms of the sheer number of Executive Orders.
“Court Fight” – Forget the merit of the legal and Constitutional arguments from both sides for a moment. Let’s just consider the legal strategy and calendar here. On Monday Republicans could file a challenge in Federal District Court. Democrats could argue to stay any injunction on the Presidnet’s authority until the Court rules. That means the Immigration policy goes ahead as the President intended. Whichever side loses in District Court, will likely file to the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. Remember, the Court calendar tends to move slowly, and the next (and final) place for redress, is the U.S. Supreme Court, which will recess the final week of June 2015. Realistically, the soonest a definitive Supreme Court ruling could likely come is July 1, 2016, six months before President Obama leaves office.
“Assassination” – One of the most interesting Executive Orders in my lifetime was essentially a ban on foreign political assassinations, first issued by President Ford, and then strengthened by President Carter and President Reagan stating, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Later, it was clarified to mean a “head of state” but did not protect anyone involved in terrorist activity, and because of that Osama bin Laden was not covered by the Executive Order when he was killed on May 2, 2011. Thank God!
“Why All of the Matters” – A lot of what we’ve seen in the last week is political theater. That’s not to minimize the importance of the immigration issue, or the various positions on both sides. But there is a lot of posturing, particularly from President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. Everything changes on January 3, when the new Republican-led Senate and House are sworn-in. Congress will probably pass a much tougher immigration bill than the one only the Senate approved this year. That will put the “check,” and then, “checkmate,” back in the President Obama’s corner. Republicans need to pass a law that the President signs, or, one which they can override - if he vetoes. Their hopes of winning the White House in 2016 likely depend on it!
What do you think? Will the President’s Executive Order be overturned by the Courts? Or, will Republicans overrule the President and pass even tougher illegal immigration measures? Post your thoughts by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
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