Where is the limit on executive power?

Justin Marinelli, Senior Writer

I realize that Ferguson has been the hot topic on people’s lips these days, but in the grand scheme of things, the impact will be far less consequential than a few other important events that have occurred over the past few weeks.

One of these events was the decision by President Barack Obama to issue an executive order granting amnesty to five million illegal immigrants to the United States. The chief rationalization for this measure seems to be sympathy for the plight of illegal immigrants in this country and the hardships they face. This is nice, I suppose, if you’re into that sort of thing, but there are some troubling aspects to this that cannot be ignored.

First off, the people whom I am really sorry for are not the illegal immigrants who have stowed away in this country and who have been avoiding the proper execution of our laws. The people I feel sorry for are those who have been in the queue for legal citizenship (a process that can take years) who have now been ignored and overlooked for no other reason than their attempt to become citizens of this country legally instead of illegally. Is this really how we should treat those who seek to obey our laws instead of violating them?

We speak of fairness and justice frequently in this country. Is there anything more unjust than forgiving those who cut the line and break the rules while shunting aside those who attempt to be honest?

This isn’t even the biggest concern. What worries me is how this type of executive order was justified. Legal aides for the Obama Administration pored over established law, and when they failed to give him the answer he was looking for, he kept sending them back to hit the books until they could provide justification for him to take this course of action.

This is a questionable recourse, especially coming from an administration that assumed the right to kill American citizens overseas without trial. Still, it is the precedent that this sets for future administrations that is most worrisome.

The power to issue executive orders is an unofficial power that is intended to help execute the laws of this country, not to alter and change them. Executive orders by previous presidents have been overturned for this reason, and there is at least cause to wonder if this should be done here (though the case for this is not as strong as some people might like). Still, if there isn’t push-back on this, then the precedent gets set that allows for the president to use executive orders for ever-more expansive projects.

The creeping expansion of presidential power that has been going on throughout this country’s history just got a little bit faster, and now it is starting to run up against rule of law. If this goes on any further, the checks and balances system will suffer tremendous strain. In an age of partisan gridlock, this is one of the last things that this system needs.

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