"There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president."
Or at least that was President Obama's position as recently as May 2011. But early Friday morning, we found out that Obama has, again, "evolved" on an issue important to a Democratic special interest group in an election year. Last month it was same-sex marriage. Now it is amnesty for illegal immigrants.
But at least Obama's marriage flip-flop, while nakedly political, was just an expression of his personal feelings. No legislation was proposed. No immediate policy changes were enacted.
Obama's immigration announcement Friday is another matter entirely. Under a new policy outlined by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, illegal immigrants under the age of 30 will not be deported for the next two years if they meet a certain criteria, including either current school attendance, GED attainment or honorable discharge from the Armed Forces.
If this were all Obama's new immigration policy did, it would arguably be a reasonable use of executive law enforcement discretion. But Obama did not stop there. He also said those exempted from deportation would be eligible for two-year work permits, which could then be renewed indefinitely.
In essence, Obama implemented by fiat what Congress had explicitly rejected when it refused to pass the DREAM Act in 2010 and 2009. Whatever your opinion on immigration, this unilateral action poisons the whole process and makes political consensus next to impossible.
Worse, Obama's two-year exemption is just the latest in a growing pattern of extra-Constitutional behavior by a chief executive who "just can't wait."
» Obama used to decry the unilateral authorization of military action. But then he bombed Libya without Congressional approval.
» Obama used to decry the abuse of recess appointments. But then he claimed recess appointment authority to name two new members to the National Labor Relations Board and to install the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- while the Senate was not in recess.
» Obama also abused the No Child Left Behind education waiver process in a move that the Brookings Institution described as "a wholesale executive branch rewrite of federal law through use of the waiver authority."
It is now abundantly clear that Obama has no respect for the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine. He clearly believes that, as president, he can do whatever he wants to do, regardless of what Congress says.
The war in Libya may be over. And courts will in all likelihood throw out his bogus recess appointments. But if Americans really want the Constitution to be respected again, they will have to send that message this November.