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The Immigration Conflagration and the Dangers of a Benevolent Dictator

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Well, he did it. It has been expected, threatened, and speculated about for months, even years. Now, he has actually done it.

He is the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and it is his issuance of an Executive Order concerning certain aspects of a much needed reform of the National Immigration Policy.

I write this article as an individual citizen – and as a constitutional and human rights lawyer.

The Executive Action is winning support, even from some of my great heroes. Among them, one of the rising stars in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose H. Gomez.

I have written numerous articles about the Archbishop, including one I wrote three years ago, entitled Archbishop Gomez Addresses Immigration with Prophetic Insight and Clarity. Just last year, in an article entitled Archbishop Gomez is Right on Comprehensive Immigration Reform , I wrote these words:

The Archbishop of Los Angeles is right on the pressing need for comprehensive immigration reform. He speaks with clarity, compassion and common sense. We need to listen to him. We need to stand with him.

His Book entitled Immigration and the Next America: Renewing the Soul of Our Nation impressed me so much that I have been steadily giving it away to colleagues from across the Christian confessional spectrum. He has been sounding a clear trumpet in the midst of a cacaphony, as the heated and divisive rhetoric concerning this vital public policy issue has grown.

On November 20, 2014, the Archbishop issued a response to the latest Executive Action of the President. It can be read in its entirety at this link, along with further commentaries from this great Churchman. Here it is in part:

I am happy that some temporary relief is being offered to help parents and children who right now are living in daily fear that their families will be broken up by arrests and deportations. But the President’s actions today are no substitute for the comprehensive immigration reform our nation needs.

Our system is broken and needs modernized to meet the realities of a global economy. Everyone knows that. And because the system is broken, many of our neighbors are suffering, including millions of families and children.

Too many families are being torn apart by deportations, uncertainty about their status, and delays in our visa process that can take years, even decades. Too many men and women who are immigrants are being exploited in the workplace and forced to live in society’s shadows.

As a nation, all of us – not only our leaders – have a responsibility. We cannot turn our heads and continue to look the other way while our brothers and sisters need our help. We all need to work together – citizens, faith communities, government agencies and elected officials.

So far, I agree with some of what the Archbishop said. But then, he continued:

So I welcome this action because it will provide some relief for millions of people who are in great need. But the relief is not permanent and the problems are still not fixed. Now is the time for us to make new efforts and new commitments to help our leaders in Washington set aside their differences and come together to find solutions that are just, compassionate, lasting and comprehensive.

For the first time, I find myself strongly disagreeing with one of my heroes, Archbishop Gomez. I do NOT welcome this Executive Action. I think it is dangerous. If it is unopposed, nothing can stop the use of such sweeping, unencumbered, executive authority in other areas.

I am not disagreeing with the prophetic, passionate and pastoral assertion of Archbishop Gomez on the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States of America. Rather, I disagree with his affirmation of this use of Executive Action to accomplish the goal – even if it was a guarded affirmation.

I do so out of a serious concern for the erosion of the constitutional order upon which this Nation was founded – and by which it has flourished. I use the word conflagration quite intentionally. It has serious, long range consequences.

Some reactions to the Presidential announcement are fanning the flames of fear, confusing  good people and dividing the Nation. I do not want to do that. The inside the beltway Republican opposition to the Executive Action is failing miserably in trying to explain itself.

Sadly, some of those put in front of the media are playing right into the caricature of the President as he attempts to paint his political opposition with the broad brush of simply not caring about the poor. This President is masterful at pushing the class warfare claims which underly his political policies.

There is no question that comprehensive immigration reform is needed in the United States. Most people acknowledge this as a fact. However, the truth is President Obama could have participated in such reform, and he knows it, by working with the 114th Congress which will soon be sworn into office.

He chose not to do so.

Instead, in a Machiavellian move, President Obama carefully played the political game of chess, positioning himself as some kind of benevolent dictator. He is now orchestrating a propaganda campaign against anyone who disagrees with his use of Executive Action.

One example of this propaganda campaign is his effort to blame the whole Republican Party for somehow forcing him to discard the very safeguards of the U.S. Constitution.

This is particularly dangerous when we consider the precedent – and the evolving role of the Presidency. The checks and balances woven into the constitutional framework of the American governance model is one of its greatest assets, and it is now placed at risk.

It is a bottom up governance model, meant to safeguard the inalienable rights endowed upon us by the Creator, as our Declaration of Independence so clearly affirms.

It embeds those self-evident truths, and the primacy of the natural moral law, in the political polity, through a constitutional framework which has stood the test of time.

It is also meant to guard against the rise, even of a benevolent dictator.

Now, let me clarify my use of that term, benevolent dictator. I am no fan of the policies of this President.  I do not consider him benevolent, in the least. Even a cursory search of my writings will disclose that.

This President fails to hear the cry of the ones whom Blessed Teresa of Calcutta called poorest of the poor, children in the first home of the whole human race, their mother’s womb.

This President has demonstrated his rejection of the first and most fundamental right, the Right to Life. He has also jettisoned even a pretense of defending marriage as between one man and one woman, open to life, intended for life and formative of family.

This President has become an open adversary of the fundamental right to religious freedom by presiding over the steady erosion of the protections of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights as they pertain to faithful Christians.

I could go on, citing his abysmal failures in international affairs and his horrid stewardship of the economy, but it is not necessary. The point has been made.

My use of the term benevolent pertains to those who think that the outcome of his Executive Action may be helpful – in an otherwise stalled effort at immigration reform.

There is a much more important aspect to be considered.

Even if I agreed with the President on his policies, his abuse of executive authority in this instance is a dangerous and unconstitutional act which has serious implications for the future of the American experiment in ordered liberty.

I know that some will note that I have mentioned what are routinely called “social issues.” Using that phrase such matters are now routinely pushed aside in much of the propaganda media.

These are fundamentally moral issues and there is a moral basis to a free society. Just as one cannot separate body and soul in the human person, one cannot separate the social, moral, economic, and international issues in the Body Politic.

When an American President exercises dictatorial powers by riding roughshod over the separation of powers doctrine, the Nation is placed at risk and the foundations of a constitutional model of governance are undermined.

When an American President uses a strained interpretation of executive authority – even in what may be perceived by good people like the good Archbishop of Los Angeles as providing “some relief” – the door is opened to the conflagration I refer to in the title of this article.

The dangers of even a benevolent dictator cannot be underestimated.



 

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