Obama and Immigration

Thoughts on Obama’s Unilateral Immigration Action

By Ken K. Gourdin

A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently issued a 2-1 decision delaying President Barack Obama’s recent executive orders on immigration. I speak passable Spanish (I minored in it in college), and I have spent a fair amount of time in Spanish-speaking countries (chiefly in Mexico, where I spent part of an academic quarter studying abroad). Many of the places I visited while there qualify as a part of the third world.

While I don’t think illegal immigration should be encouraged, and while I love the culture, customs, and people of many Spanish-speaking countries (especially those of Mexico), knowing the economic, health, and other conditions that prevail in much of Mexico, I can certainly understand why someone might risk emigrating from there, even if doing so illegally. I can understand easily why someone might conclude that he has nothing to lose (and, indeed, has much to gain) by doing so. Many immigrants, both legal and not, come here in search of a better life, and it doesn’t take much to improve on where they come from.1

And, as I have noted elsewhere on the blog, there is a difference between mala prohibita crime – action that is a crime because the law says it is, such as illegal immigration; and crime that is mala in se – inherently or morally wrong. Too many people who favor stricter enforcement of immigration laws fail to recognize that distinction.1

Before attempting action which, if fully implemented, would purport to confer legal status on potentially millions of people who entered the country illegally, President Obama said repeatedly that he did not have such power. Apparently, however, with respect to immigration (among other things) President Obama has concluded (his previous declarations to the contrary notwithstanding) that the recalcitrance of the Congress somehow automagically justifies his unilateral action in this case.

I’ve also written elsewhere that, other than elections, President Obama simply doesn’t “do” politics.2 He appears to consider such business unseemly, preferring, instead, to soar above the fray. Given the fact that he voted “present” 138 times during his tenure as an Illinois Senator, I hope I can be forgiven for describing him as “the Gentle Backbencher from Chicago”; likewise, given his short, apparently little-distinguished tenure in the United States Senate, I hope I can be forgiven for describing him as “the Gentle Backbencher from Illinois.”

It may be little wonder, given such a tenure, why President Obama seems so disdainful of congressional power (apparently, he doesn’t think it has any). I learned in middle and high school (not to mention law school) that the concept of separation of powers means, roughly, that the legislative branch makes the laws, the judiciary interprets them, and the executive branch enforces them. Sadly, too many people are (and have been) too disengaged civically and politically to care about the separation of powers, and about what failure to adhere to that separation means for our form of government.

Obama isn’t the first president (Republican or Democrat) to flout the separation of powers. But few (in fact, none, it seems) have done it so blatantly and so often, and it’s not just Republicans or conservatives, aka flaming right-wing wacko nut-jobs, who are saying so.3 In fact, at least with respect to Obama’s past attempts at unilateral action, even Obama appointees have said so.4



Ken K. Gourdin (March 9, 2013) “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Compassion, Immigration, and Law and Order” (Blog post), https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/lds-and-immigration/, last accessed May 30, 2015.


Ken K. Gourdin (November 22, 2013) “Obama the Anti-Politician” (Blog post) https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/obama-the-anti-politician/, last accessed May 30, 2015.


Katie Pavlich (November 17, 2014) “Liberal Law Professor Jonathan Turley: Obama’s Executive Amnesty Threat ‘Tears at Very Fabric of The Constitution’,” http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2014/11/17/libera-law-professor-jonathan-turley-i-hope-obama-doesnt-get-away-with-executive-amnesty-n1919710, last accessed May 30, 2015.


See, e.g., Joel Gehrke (July 1, 2014) “Ted Cruz: Obama’s 20 nanimous Supreme Court Losses Outpace Bush and Clinton,” http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/381676/ted-cruz-obamas-20-unanimous-supreme-court-losses-outpace-bush-and-clinton-joel-gehrke, last accessed May 30, 2015.

About kenngo1969

Just as others must breathe to live, I must write. I have been writing creatively almost ever since I learned to write, period! I have written fiction, book- and article-length nonfiction, award-winning poetry, news, sports, features, and op-eds. I hope, one day, to write some motivational nonfiction, a decent-selling novel, a stage play, and a screen play.
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