Panelists question legality of immigration executive order

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By Colin McNamara

Contributing Writer

Dr. James Jay Carafano responds to changes in immigration policy. - Photo by Michelle Berthet
Dr. James Jay Carafano responds to changes in immigration policy.
– Photo by Michelle Berthet

The Alexander Hamilton Society’s last event of the semester focused on answering questions concerning President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

Does Obama have the power to grant legal amnesty to the 11 million immigrants currently within the United States?  What is the extent of that amnesty? Are his powers constitutionally founded? And what is Congress’s response?

This past Wednesday, April 22, AHS hosted a panel that aimed to address the issues surrounding the executive order that granted amnesty for illegal immigrants currently within the U.S.  The event, “Immigration and Executive Action,” continued AHS’s mission of bringing current topics to UD students, offering them unique insight into the current state of the challenges facing Obama’s actions.  The panel’s guest speaker was Dr. James Jay Carafano of The Heritage Foundation, and UD politics professors Dr. Richard Dougherty and Dr. Christopher Wolfe gave responses.

Carafano welcomed the large turnout for the event with engaging and dynamic opening remarks. He stated that immigration policy is of particular importance right now because it touches every aspect of our lives, such as citizenship and its extensive economic impact and the national unemployment rate caused by the influx of immigrants posing a particular threat to labor unions.

“[The] American economy is at this point dependent on the illegal immigrants,” Wolfe said.

Carafano readily distinguished the immigrant issue from the dangers posed by the “crime cartel,” a name he said was more suitable than “drug cartel.”

“Immigration and security from international terrorists issues have practically no overlap,” he stated. Though the question of U.S. policy concerning immigrants currently in the U.S. is distinct from the dangers posed by the cartels, Wolfe was quick to point out that these same cartels south of the border are in fact a dominant cause of of illegal immigration, driving many across the border in search of a place where they and their families can live safely.

Though the number of current illegal immigrants within the U.S. today is unknown, the commonly accepted estimate is around 11 million. According to Wolfe, Obama’s executive order was an attempt to “regulate the position of the 11 million.”

“Migration from south to north is not going to stop or change, we simply have to figure out how to regulate it appropriately,” Carafano said.

Congress is currently addressing the legality of Obama’s unilateral actions to pass public policy.  Wolfe compared Obama’s independent actions with Theodore Roosevelt’s approach in favor of all executive actions “that are not expressly forbidden.”  Wolfe interpreted Obama’s actions as “an attempt to advance a fairly broad public policy that [Obama] favors… which in my opinion is pretty clearly unconstitutional.”

Dougherty said that Obama’s actions were a memorandum, rather than an executive order.

“Criticism has been exaggerated,” he said, adding, however, that, “[the actions were] indeed heavy handed.”

Dougherty stated that Obama’s actions did not give legal citizenship to the 11 million, but rather gave deferred status to groups who met specific criteria — an action not altogether uncommon or as radical as many believe.  He said the more questionable part of Obama’s actions was the blanket approval of  “an economic necessity to work,” which would make work permits widely accessible.

All speakers concluded by agreeing that it is not likely the courts will come to a decision anytime soon, and the deliberation may very well linger until the end of Obama’s term in office.

“We’re grateful as always for another fantastic event on so relevant a topic,” senior Patrick Bohlin, president of AHS, said. “AHS has a long and vibrant future at UD, and we hope next year’s events can continue to complement our unique education.”

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