Recently the U.S. Supreme Court struck down much of Arizona’s immigration law, and allowed only some of it to remain. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid crowed that the decision was a victory for the Obama administration. He went on to call the Arizona law unconstitutional and outside mainstream America.
The Supreme Court’s decision was sound. By the constitution’s supremacy clause, a state law in conflict with a federal law on a federal matter is pre-empted. Immigration is the domain of the federal government. But while it is a federal matter, it is also a federal responsibility. The federal government has danced away from overhauling immigration. Faced with a lack of federal leadership, Arizona’s governor made an understandable move in seeking to protect her border state.
Harry Reid should know something about unconstitutional laws. He helped to pass the Obama healthcare law, which has several constitutional problems. While the mandate requiring citizens to either get health insurance or pay increased taxes got by the Supreme Court on the slimmest of margins, the battle over religious freedom is still ahead of us.
President Obama has demonstrated a strong disregard for the federal constitution. Rather than reversing the trend of recent administrations to weaken that document, he has accelerated its dismantling. This is particularly puzzling when we consider that the President once taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago.
This may be an example of the desultory state of much of current academia. Obama was holed up in his teaching position, remote from the realities of law practice. In what was nothing less than a bizarre move, Obama gave up his license as a lawyer.
But a perhaps stronger reason may be Obama’s identification with President Lincoln. After a brilliant career of practicing law, Lincoln became the least constitutional of presidents. Among his most notorious moves was the suspension of habeas corpus. But Lincoln dealt with a Civil War that was destroying the nation. Obama has no remotely similar situation.
Increasingly, Obama has resorted to using the executive order. Presidents at least as far back as Truman have used the executive order in matters usually directly involving the executive branch of government. But Obama has significantly expanded the scope of the executive order, and has come to use it on matters that were traditionally legislative.
Recently Obama used the executive order to keep a large category of illegal immigrants from being deported. Immigration should be the work of the Congress. It is true that the current Congress is one of the most cantankerous in history, but the President’s job, however difficult, is to work with the legislature. Presidents as far back as George Washington have done this.
“Executive” has become President Obama’s favorite word. Recently, he frustrated a major Congressional investigation by claiming executive privilege with regard to Attorney General’s weapons project. Richard Nixon, who did much more for the country than Obama, was forced to leave office for much less than this. Attorney General Holder has subsequently been held in contempt of Congress.
Nothing may come of this, as it is up to the Obama administration to prosecute the matter. Obama will most likely not appoint a special prosecutor. But the President’s actions herald large-scale constitutional crises to come.