We are a nation of immigrants. That is good. But it is also President Obama’s justification for violating his oath to see that the laws are faithfully executed. That is bad.

With equal plausibility the President could order the execution of all Native Americans; they’re not immigrants, after all. Or he could send U.S. passports to all the citizens of Europe, Africa, and Asia, many of whom would love to immigrate to the U. S.

The fact is that the President’s decision to defy this country’s immigration laws is unprecedented. No, Thomas Jefferson did not defy a congressional order to buy warships; Congress in 1803 specifically said that the President was “authorized” and “empowered” to do it, but not required to do it. And, no, the G. W. Bush administration did not ignore the Geneva Conventions with regard to Taliban prisoners of war; the Geneva Conventions make a specific distinction between “regular” army soldiers and “irregular” Army soldiers, and Attorney General Gonzales specifically relied upon that distinction.

The Left is grasping at straws to justify this President’s dictatorial action. To be sure, the President’s actions are undoubtedly well-intentioned. He may sincerely believe that he is standing up against xenophobes and ensuring the prolongation of a wise and progressive presidency. Tyrants always have persuasive excuses, and usually have good intentions too.

The President’s new policy applies to people who the law calls “illegal aliens” but who claim to have been brought to this country illegally by their parents. The President plans to conduct extensive and expensive investigations to find out their true current ages, and their true ages when they immigrated, and their criminal and educational history since coming to this country, et cetera. That’s a lot of work for an administration that claims to lack resources. In contrast, the law (justly or unjustly) provides only for their deportation. The President’s excuse that he does not have resources to enforce the law is plainly discredited by the fact that he is claiming plenty of resources to violate the law, and to issue illegal work permits.

The law in this instance is harsh, and I hope that Congress changes it in conjunction with eliminating the other harsh effects of illegal immigration.

The president is to be roundly condemned not so much for his policy position, but for his unilateral imposition of that policy position upon Congress and the country. Just as his favorite judges have sewn discord and distrust by announcing what they think the law “should be” instead of simply saying what the law is, so too we now have a president who rules by decree, literally above the law. The United States will not remain united by this kind of dictatorship, be it benevolent or not.

President Obama thinks he knows better than the first President: “But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.” Let us hope that Obama’s new precedent is repudiated soon.