A revised Dream Act, which could have dealt in an orderly way with the children of illegal aliens in our midst, is dead. Barack Obama couldn’t wait to get the corpse out of the parlor.
The president’s remarkable amnesty by fiat — an amnesty that dare not speak its name — has the immediate effect of giving a permanent temporary pass to 800,000 of these children of illegals. But there’s more to this mercy than the casual eye sees.
This amnesty defers until after the election, and probably for good, comprehensive immigration reform of the sort envisioned by Sen. Marco Rubio. The Florida Republican had offered a revision of the Dream Act that would have helped some children of aliens who enroll in college or join one of the military services.
Mr. Rubio has all but given up. “People are going to say to me, ‘Why are we going to need to do anything on this now?’ It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election. And it is going to be hard to argue with that.”
This is exactly the result that President Obama and the open-borders Democrats envisioned. The president prefers not to consult with Congress, which is messy, like democracy itself, and congressmen occasionally ask questions that interrupt the messianic oratory. Careful comprehensive reform would have meant sharing the credit and the gratitude; this way Mr. Obama gets all the credit and, by making it seem “temporary,” he can keep the kids and their parents uneasy about their future. Keeping the peasants uneasy about the future, extending suffering and rationing the aspirin, is the oldest trick in the politician’s playbook.
But there was even more method in the president’s madness. By springing this remarkable expansion of presidential prerogative now, he can test congressional concern for the Constitution and courage to do anything about it, however revolutionary the damage inflicted. An earlier president attempting to bypass Congress and enforce only the laws he likes would have provoked Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to stand up on its hind legs and roar defiance and retribution. Alas, those hind legs of Congress have withered, replaced by little ladylike nubbins.
Mr. Obama knows better, and said so only two years ago in answer to Democratic pressure for a presidential decree of amnesty: “I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce. And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the Dream Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true.”
Only now he has proved that he can in fact “go and do,” and he can continue to raid the law books in ways the men who wrote the Constitution never imagined a president could “go and do.” Two years ago, the Department of Homeland Security — which seems to imagine itself the Department of das Fatherland Security — set out in several memoranda, titled “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” just how the president should go about stiffing Congress. This was the road map the president used to do what he said he couldn’t do.
There’s more coming, as Mitt Romney breathes closer down his neck and pressure from the left tightens. Mr. Obama can decree asylum, which is not temporary, to ever-expanding categories of asylum seekers. Asylum is granted now to those persecuted, or in “fear” of persecution, “on account of race, religion, nationality [or] membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” This could include just about everybody, as Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, observes in National Review Online. Asylum already includes women seeking refuge from brutal societies, homosexuals and the handicapped, and it requires little imagination to expand these categories to include residents of Mexico and Central America who fear gunmen of the drug cartels.
Only the heartless want to see the innocents, like the children brought here by their law-breaking parents, sent back to a primitive society and culture they never knew. But allowing a president to make policy based on what he needs to win an election, without consultation with anyone but his campaign handlers, is a heartless disregard of the rule of law we have always held high as the standard that makes America special.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.