The substantive and procedural rule of law is the most right thing to do
This former and long-time fence-first-before-amnesty Southern Baptist conservative Republican only came to embrace a modified (non-voting rights) amnesty for long-time residents (even before the Mexican border is secured) last October during the GOP debate over Governor Rick Perry's Texas law granting in-state tuition rates to long-time illegal immigrants.
We had always favored comprehensive immigration reform but thought it prudent to secure the border first so as not to increase the magnet for more illegal entries. But, given the impasse in Washington created by Democrats who view the trail of illegals from Mexico City to El Paso as a voting booth line, thus making the building of fences real and virtual, virtually impossible; and the ongoing injustice against long-time residents welcomed under a de facto open borders rule of law that has existed for decades, we embraced "defining amnesty down" now.
By now, of course, we meant our support for congressional action to change current law pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution which grants the legislative branch of the federal government exclusive power in this area thusly:
"The Congress shall have Power...To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization..."
The rule of law must be paramount, especially as applied to the government itself, and we see no contradiction between obeisance to the rule in favoring a change in the substantive law as applies to those that entered the United States many years ago with a wink and nod from the government, employers and neighbors.
For some time, we thought ourselves at odds with the policy of our Southern Baptist Christian denomination and friend, Dr. Richard Land who serves as president of its Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, given our post-911 fence-first position, but discovered, upon examination, that Land's comprehensive approach, and that of he and fellow evangelicals announced only a few days before the recent DHS executive order concerning the non-deportation of illegal aliens all affirmed the rule of law and border security first.
We wish that our fellow Republicans in Congress would accept the reality that no fence will be built and no actual border security achieved until we elect a president willing to build and secure (the campaign slogan of the last chief executive of the federal government willing to so do was, "I like Ike"!), and that therefore, in the meantime, we should favor legislation, including various Dream acts, that ends the injustice of treating as criminals those that entered the U.S. as unaccountable minors or that have been accepted as de facto citizens via longevity and knowing non-enforcement while we gladly accepted their labor.
But, every attempt at border security and/or comprehensive reform, including President Obama's favored Dream Act earlier this year, has failed to be enacted into law. Incredibly, a President facing a re-election fight on a record defined by continuous and unrelenting economic misery, announced (or rather, had the Secretary of Homeland Security announce) a Dream Act via executive fiat.
We agree with Secretary Janet Napolitano that the government may exercise prosecutorial discretion to set priorities with respect to deportation, but that they may not simply re-write existing law, as the executive order attempts to do here:
"For individuals who are granted deferred action by either ICE or USCIS, USCIS shall accept applications to determine whether these individuals qualify for work authorization during this period of deferred action."
The Obama Administration is decidedly not merely setting priorities on deportations. Rather, they are affirmatively granting work permits to illegals in contravention of current federal law, and, I might add, suing states (and winning in Arizona) that dare to fight back on behalf of the jobs, hospitals, schools and prisons that their legal citizens need support.
Many things define and explain America exceptionalism. Few are as paramount as our exaltation of the Rule of Law above the arbitrary rule of men, either as kings, presidents or judicial oligarchs. Yes, even arbitrary rule may be the "right thing" on substance, but if our history with the procedural Separation of Powers and limited government shows, adhering to the prescribed and lawful process leads to better substantive laws that do the right thing.
"These people that were covered by this executive order – this is the low-hanging fruit of immigration reform. These young people – 99.9 percent of them – have done nothing wrong. They didn't bring themselves here…
“In an election year, everything is going to be perceived as being political. But the president’s been waiting for Congress to do something. Congress hasn't done it. Congress, I think, was in the process of seeking to do something. [U.S. Sen.] Marco Rubio was making some real headway with a bill that is remarkably analogous to what the president did.
“I would rather have Congress do it, because that way it’s a long-term solution, not a short-term solution. But as Marco Rubio said, the president’s action complicates the politics but reduces the urgency. Because it does keep these young people from the fear of being deported….
“I’m trying to figure out what the problem is…..”
The problem is that the president under our system of self government does not have the power to overrule the will of We the People though our elected representatives. If you want to know what real injustice looks like against the young and old, citizens and illegals alike, just continue to water down the rule of law via bailouts denying U.S. auto company bondholders their rights under bankruptcy laws, EPA promulgations declaring human breath a pollutant and outlawing new coal plants, allowing the Secretary of Human services to decide who must pay for whom's abortion pills, and who gets work permits.
We sympathize with Richard Land in desiring an end to the deportation nightmares of young illegals and we favor a Congressionally passed non-voting rights amnesty that old and young illegals alike, dream of. But the American Dream that caused millions to come to these shores across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower or on foot across the Rio Grande, was built via the constitutional rule of law, without which there would have been no magnet of Liberty and prosperity in the first place.
We are thankful that our Southern Baptist Convention remains officially in favor of only congressionally passed Dream Acts and not king-like lawlessness and for Dr. Land's support for such action as a long term solution and near rock solid conservative positions on most issues and look forward to further dialogue on this issue in the future. We hope that all eventually see that upholding the Rule of Law is the main right thing to do for all.
“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson
Atlanta Law & Politics columnist – Examiner.com
Charlotte Observer and Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-eds archived at Townhall.com.