Tag Archives: executive order

The Powers of the President

A recent item in the news that caught my attention was the controversy concerning President Obama’s decision to use an executive order to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants in the United States. Given the amount of controversy surrounding this decision, it can be easy to see why some may be flustered by President Obama’s executive order.

The details of the order are fairly clear. Under the order, immigrants who are here are essentially allowed to stay in America. Their children are eligible for federal retirement benefits if they are under 30, but the parents are not. There are some bureaucratic catches with the system, such as having to reapply every 3-5 years, but that is the gist of what the order does.

This article’s job is not to talk about the legality of such an action. Others have done so. This article’s job is to talk about whether President Obama has the authority to enact such a piece of legislation.

Presidential-Power
“So unless the Constitution directly says: The President of the United States cannot, under any cause, make sweeping changes to the immigration laws of the United States; President Obama, like every other president before him, most certainly has the authority to enact such legislation.” Graphic taken from http://mrpshumanities.blogspot.com

In short, he does.

The office of the president has always had broad powers concerning executive action. In general, unless the Constitution explicitly bars the president from doing something, it can be argued that the president can make changes to that law.

So unless the Constitution directly says: The President of the United States cannot, under any cause, make sweeping changes to the immigration laws of the United States; President Obama, like every other president before him, most certainly has the authority to enact such legislation.

Apparently, America has always been fine with presidents asserting their executive power during times of war. Franklin Delano Roosevelt instigated the War Powers Acts which gave him increased Executive authority directly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Incidentally, FDR is also the president with the most executive orders under his name. Luckily, this bring the conversation to an important question concerning the ethics of President Obama’s executive action.

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, he issued a total of 363 executive orders. President Bush (Jr.) issued 290 executive orders during his 2 term presidency. One important factor in all of these presidencies, including Obama’s current term is that all three of these men won reelection, meaning that Clinton, Bush, and Obama did/will serve for 8 years.

Compared to the previous 2 presidents, Obama has issued the fewest executive actions, totaling in at only 190 executive orders since he took office in 2008. So the argument that conservatives flock to, that Obama cares not for the Constitution and is Dictator Obama or Fuher Obama is simply ridiculous. If anything, President Obama uses the executive powers of his office far less than other modern presidents did during their terms. It is worth noting that Obama still has two years left until he leaves office in 2016, so he may still surpass Bash in numbers of orders issued. However, that is not the case right now.

It is not my aim to pretend that this ruling doesn’t come with a certain sense of politicking. I’d argue it most certainly does. Along with Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, this is probably President Obama’s most emphatic statement concerning his own presidential legacy to date. The Democrats almost always fare better with all minority voters than Republicans do.

Democrats often receive a bigger chunk of the Hispanic vote, the black vote, the female vote, and the young vote. In many cases, it is not a stretch to say the only group the Republican party gets in overwhelming numbers is the middle aged/old white male vote. To be certain, President Obama’s recent decision concerning immigration is both an act of social justice and political victory.

The biggest mistake made thus far in this discussion is that the questions that have been asked about the executive order do not get at the heart of the question at hand. Instead of arguing semantics as to whether Obama has the authority to do this, we should be asking what good or bad will come from this executive order. And for that answer, only time will tell.