Thursday, September 7, 2017

Save DACA—and Reign in the Power of the Presidency

President Trump acted to end the Obama Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which was enacted through executive order. Called “DACA” for short, it’s the right policy for America. It allows immigrants who were illegally brought here as children, but have known no other life than living in America, to remain. They can apply for residency through a permit, renewable every two years.


The New Jersey Star-Ledger opined on Trump’s action, calling on Congress to save DACA. I agree, but not fully with its reasoning. In Trump revokes DACA, and now a spineless Congress must respond, the Star-Ledger writes:


But DACA is mostly a moral debate. It is about people who arrived here as children, who pledge allegiance to no other flag. They have become our soldiers, cops, teachers, business owners, taxpayers, and - in the case of a hero named Alonso Guillen - first responders who lost their lives in Houston.


You don't deport people like Guillen, a 31-year-old disc jockey who emigrated from Mexico at age 15. You build monuments in their memory.


All true, but misses the fundamental point. The Star-Ledger also writes:


It is true that Obama acted beyond the purview of Congress when he signed DACA - largely because the House of Representatives never had the spine to act on immigration after the Senate passed a sweeping reform bill in 2013.


I left these comments:


Congress must act to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. These so-called “Dreamers” are Americans in every way but technically. They want freedom to work to make their own lives the best they can be. However, the main reason for legalizing the Dreamers and (liberalizing our immigration laws) is not that they contribute to America’s economy. They do, as all productive people do. But its not about what we Americans can get out of these people. They’re not our servants. The main reason is that every individual has a moral right to live free and work to make her own life the best it can be, for her own sake—and that, not collectivist utility, is what America is all about.


There’s something more important at play here, though. This DACA issue exposes another problem that must be fixed—the rampant use by presidents of executive orders. The Star-Ledger notes that “Obama acted beyond the purview of Congress when he signed DACA”—that is, beyond his constitutional authority. This is serious, not something to be flippantly brushed off as, “Well, Congress never had the spine to act, so the president had to.”


A government has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. It is the only institution in a society that can compel obedience, through laws, to its edicts. This power is necessary, because it must be able to maintain order (e.g., traffic laws) and prosecute private criminals. But this very monopoly on legalized force demands that government’s power be restricted, so that government officials can’t become the criminal. Government’s job is to protect the people, including their individual rights. Maintaining this balance is why we have a Constitution. That’s why the Founders established a balance of power between different branches of government, and instituted checks and balances. They didn’t want a president to be able to act as King, any more than they wanted an electoral majority to act as a mob. Either is a path that can only end very badly for America, the genuine rule of law, and our freedom.


I don’t know if Trump really wants to kick out the Dreamers, or save them by pushing Congress to do it right. Whatever, we must legalize the Dreamers. It would be cruel and unjust to kick them out. More broadly, we must reform our immigration laws to make it easier and fairer to allow productive individuals who are not a threat to Americans’ health, safety, and individual rights to immigrate to America. Above all, we must demand that our politicians respect the constitution. Congress has already relinquished too much power to the Executive Branch, through the regulatory agencies. Congress should do immigration reform right—that is, constitutionally, through legislation, so no immigrants’ lives are ever again dependent on and at the mercy of one man’s executive orders.


Related Reading:






Myths and Facts about a Rights-Respecting Immigration Policy—Ari Armstrong for The Objective Standard


Immigration and Individual Rights—Craig Biddle for The Objective Standard

1 comment:

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