It’s been said in many arguments to the affirmative of the Federal government’s authority in general or of a particular branch of the Federal government’s authority to do a particular thing that the Constitution is a confusing instrument, full of gray areas and nuances that make it difficult to understand. I won’t define and rehash all such arguments I’ve heard in this post. But I find that kind of argument a bit perplexing when it comes to immigration reform via executive fiat as recently attempted by President Obama because if I actually read the document, it’s apparent that Article I Section 8 makes it pretty clear which branch of government is responsible for immigration rules (Hint: It’s the 4th delineated power):
Section 8 – Powers of Congress
- The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
- To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
- To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
- To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
- To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
- To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
- To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
- To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
- To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
- To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
- To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
- To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
- To provide and maintain a Navy;
- To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
- To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
- To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
- To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
- To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
The President’s job is also pretty clear. He/she gets to “faithfully execute” the laws of the United States, veto or concur with new laws. Once something does become law, the president who signed it and all other future presidents are bound by it. The current President doesn’t like a law signed by President Reagan? The most that can be done is to lobby Congress to amend or repeal the law because there is no Constitutional choice to ignore it or change it on behalf of the Executive.
At least on immigration reform, the Constitution is pretty unambiguous as to who is responsible for what. And so, I think a more productive way to talk about this is what will happen to all the people affected by Obama’s executive fiat when it comes under judicial review? If the justices in the Federal Courts are doing their jobs, the parts of the order that run contrary to the letter of current immigration law will be struck down. Is that really a fair deal? I’d say not; and Obama isn’t doing them any favors, but rather using them as pawns in a game of politics. But that probably shouldn’t come as any surprise given Obama is used to the notion of a sacrifice ratio. Thus I think his move on immigration to be irresponsible, against the grain of the General Welfare and in fact rather cruel to the eventual victims of extra-legal chaos.
Moving on to the events in Ferguson, MO with the Grand Jury returning a No True bill, a refusal to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown Jr. In a previous post, I wrote about journalistic malpractice in this case, partly because of lack of reporting on the condition of the officer immediately after the incident. According to my sources, the officer had a “hamburger-face” and suffered a fractured eye socket. The District Attorney stated that the officer suffered swelling on his face, but offered no other details.
I am not sure if the officer did have a fractured eye socket. Nevertheless, I am convinced that what happened is what would be classified as a Class C Felony in my state, assault on a police officer, and is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 per injury and at least two years in state prison.
In thinking about it this way, I imagine myself in the same situation as the shooting victim. How would I react if told to get out of the road by a cop and I wasn’t interested in being harassed? For one, being an older lady, I don’t believe I would physically challenge the officer for two reasons: 1) I am easy to subdue and it would be a losing battle, and 2) I’d expect the officer to defend himself commensurate with the threat. I am in all probability physically incapable of beating an officer with any kind of severity and unlikely to be shot even if I did choose to physically engage one. But an 18 year-old male built like a football player is a different story; it is far more likely an offer would end up in a lost battle.
And this brings me to my point of the complete injustice done by the press in making this story out to be about race. I think what this is really about is failure of the “system” to recognize and appropriately deal with mental illness. Just think about the mental state of someone who does physically engage a police officer knowing cops have guns. One has to either be the clinical definition of an idiot, insane or suicidal to do so; and it’s easy to see that every institution in society that deals with youth failed this kid, including his parents. This kid likely exhibited signs of needing help long before this event occurred, yet no one seemed to notice or care before the worst happened to him. And because the press frames it about race, the wrong problem will be addressed and we still will not see the end of kids needing medical treatment having their lives cut short in suicide-by-cop.