Obama weighs in on DACA, disingenuously

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Former President Obama takes to Facebook to attack President Trump’s decision to phase out DACA. As one would expect, Obama’s piece is a masterpiece of misdirection.

Scott has posted the full text of Obama’s statement. As Scott says, the former president indulges in his favorite pastimes: question begging, condescension, and attempting to make his opponents out to be indecent, immoral and stupid.

I found this passage from Obama’s statement telling:

Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people – our young people – that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here a certain number of years, and if you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you’ll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.

That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people. . . .

But if deporting these illegal immigrants made no sense, and indeed is contrary to “basic decency” (as Obama says later), why did he ask Congress for a bill to end the deportations? Why didn’t he order the DACA amnesty straight away? If he feared that a future president would revoke the order, he could have sought congressional approval later.

Obama went to Congress because he recognized that only Congress has the power to enact such a change. As Obama himself once said in this context, he was not a king.

When Obama decided, in effect, to play king on this issue, he defended it as an act of “prosecutorial discretion.” If that’s what it was, he never needed to go Congress in the first place.

But prosecutorial discretion is no basis for a de facto grant of amnesty to an entire class of lawbreakers. As Andy McCarthy explains:

In principle, prosecutorial discretion is a resource-allocation doctrine: The assets available for law-enforcement functions are finite, so the executive branch must prioritize — meaning serious violations get the most attention, while comparatively trivial violations often go unaddressed. Nevertheless, the president may not use prosecutorial discretion as a ruse to, in effect, repeal congressional statutes or decree new “laws.”

Obama’s DACA amnesty wasn’t really about using precious assets to prosecute serious violations. It was predicated on the belief that it is immoral to view the “dreamers” as having committed any violation at all.

Obama’s Facebook post makes this clear. He relies on the familiar “who we are as a people” argument. He even uses the phrase.

Appealing to the American creed, he states:

What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.

There are at least two problems with this argument. First, it reads out of the American creed one of our most important ideals — Constitutionalism. Obama may not realize it, but respect for our Constitution is a big part of how America “has traveled this far.” We would not have made it as far with a king.

Doing an end-run around the Constitution in the name of “prosecutorial discretion” is not who we are as a people.

Second, if DACA-style amnesty is an essential element of Americanism, surely Congress will enact it. President Trump is giving it the opportunity to do so by delaying full implementation of his order repealing DACA. There is bipartisan support for such amnesty.

Congress is a better guide to who were are as a people than an ex-president whose goal it was fundamentally to transform America. If Obama’s worldview were a good indicator, the Democrats would not have suffered a devastating shrinkage of their power, notwithstanding years of economic growth, during his administration.

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