Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I had the opportunity to discuss the President's immigration initiatives on Capital Public Radio yesterday morning. Although the press reports strongly suggest that the President Obama's initiatives may border on the unconstitutional (which apparently is more newsworthy than characterizing the actions as in the mainstream), it seems to me that the rather modest steps taken by the President with respect to deferred (i.e., temporary) action, ending Secure Communities, focusing scarce enforecment resources on "felons, not families," etc., are well within the power of the Executive Branch and similar to immigration actions taken by previous Presidents. As a recent letter from a group of law professors suggests and another letter from 135 immigration law professors opines (as well as previous letters), the vast majority of law professors seem to agree.
Apparently seeking to stir the pot as he did in questioning birthright citizenship in a 1985 book, Yale's Peter Schuck has made the jarring claim in the New York Times that President Obama might be subject to impeachment for committing high crimes and misdemeanors in the immigration initiatives. That extreme position, which one would expect more from a political partisan than a law professor, unfortunately plays into the efforts to provoke controversy and polarize the public.
There is room for reasoned debate about whether the President's initiatives make sense as a matter of policy and politics. However, the drumbeat that executive actions of dubious legality have been taken, calls for impeachment and government shut downs, and the like are unlikely to lead to productive debate about the proper policies to pursue with respect to immigration. Until the nation can have that discussion, it is hard to see how Congress will be passing any kind of comprhensive immigration enforcement measure.