Barack Obama used to teach constitutional law at the law school in which I am presently enrolled. He was by all accounts well-liked by his students, though perhaps somewhat aloof to his then-fellow faculty members. I currently have class three days a week in then-Professor Obama’s old favorite classroom, Room V, and each time I enter I see a photo near the door commemorating his teaching legacy. White House Press Secretaries Jay Carney and Josh Earnest — not to mention the president’s usual media apologists — oftentimes like to remind us “stupid” and inferior plebeians of the president’s uniquely germane academic pedigree. In 2008, in fact, this erstwhile constitutional law scholar sought the presidency in no small part to reverse what he considered an unprecedented usurpation of executive authority away from a complicit Congress. To his credit, earlier in his presidency Obama repeatedly kept his word on the proper bounds of the executive branch/legislative branch tug-of-war, in the context of immigration enforcement — much to the dismay of his largely open-borders and anti-sovereignty donor base. This should not much surprise us; after all, it does not take a constitutional law scholar to make sense of the Vesting Clause of Art. I (“All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…), the specifically enumerated power delegated by the States to the Congress in Art. I, § 8, cl. 4 to “establish a uniform rule of naturalization…”, and the president’s Art. II, § 3 prerogative to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”.
And yet, somehow, here we are, with a unilateral amnesty of an unprecedentedly massive scope and scale. In what amounts to a quasi-monarchical temper tantrum following an election night shellacking in which nationwide Republicans — who collectively ran on very little substance other than near-unanimous rejection of precisely this type of ukase — effected a historical repudiation of his party’s agenda, Obama has essentially stuck his middle finger to the voting populace and decided that his “pen” and “phone” will themselves suffice to suspend and rewrite large portions of our codified immigration law. Do not believe what liberals may tell you about there being any kind of presidential precedent for stretching the doctrine of “prosecutorial discretion” this far; as Professor Josh Blackman details, there are very real and substantive distinctions …read more