In reacting to President Obama’s recent speech on immigration, I find myself in the same position as Ilya Shapiro; I commend the president on a truly excellent, much-needed policy change, while deploring the way in which the change is being implemented. Like Shapiro, I cannot get past the fact that previously, the president swore up and down that he did not have the authority to put into effect the changes that he is now putting into effect. To be sure, there are legal justifications for the president’s position–see Ilya Somin on that issue. But let there be absolutely no mistake that in effect, the president has issued a signing statement when it comes to the immigration laws on the books; stating that there are certain provisions of the law that he won’t enforce. When George W. Bush did that kind of thing, the very people who applaud the Obama administration’s action on immigration went on the offensive and accused President Bush of usurping the Constitution and behaving like a king or a dictator. Now, that President Obama has imitated (yet again) the same governing style, these same people shout hosannas and encomiums. As I have noted before, let me note again that some imperial presidencies are more popular than others in the bien pensant community.
It would have been nice if, in the president’s speech, he explained to the rest of us why he suddenly decided that he has powers that in the past, he denied having. But we were deprived that explanation. And that’s too bad. The president’s comments to the contrary notwithstanding, his position on immigration has changed. A pity that we were given no justification for that change, other than “Republicans are not doing what I want them to do.”