The administration vs. the Constitution

Published 10:18 pm Thursday, December 4, 2014

By Rep. Randy Forbes

Recently, Americans watched as our president announced sweeping changes to our nation’s immigration system. The bottom line of his decision? Amnesty.

In a stunning example of executive overreach, the president took an action that he himself has said is one of the biggest problems facing America.

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“I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with [the president] trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America,” the president said in a campaign speech in 2008.

But President Obama’s announcement of his planned executive action brought that statement to its knees. In one 15-minute address to the nation, he went back on 22 statements he has made claiming he couldn’t ignore or create his own immigration laws.

Forging ahead with his executive plan for amnesty, the president has left the American people — and the U.S. Constitution — in his dust.

Let me state clearly my position on immigration: No amnesty. Period. Our immigration policy must reflect our core belief that entry into the United States is not a right, but a privilege.

America’s immigration laws are only as good as our commitment to enforcing them. Executive action granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants not only fails to fix the problem, it makes it worse. It undermines our current immigration policy, and will only encourage more illegal immigration.

But the uproar over the president’s decision is about more than immigration. It’s about a commitment to the supreme law of the land.

American presidents swear to faithfully execute the laws of our nation. Yet, Americans have repeatedly found themselves in situations where they question whether the current President is truly upholding his end of that commitment.

Each unilateral action chips away at what little trust remains in our government institutions. Our institutions, our Constitution, and our nation’s foundation are built on the rule of law.

On the issue of immigration, the cornerstone to any successful plan must be the enforcement of our current immigration laws. The president’s executive actions place the integrity of those laws, as well as the integrity of our government, at stake.

American presidents, by the nature of their position, make a commitment to work through the democratic process. The president’s unilateral action to change our immigration laws is not discretion; it is a blatant disregard of the separation of powers as laid out in the Constitution.

In his address to the nation, the president criticized aspects of our democratic system. However, the very pieces of that democratic system he criticized — the processes of deliberation and negotiation — are set in place to prevent sweeping changes from taking place without proper debate. The goal is not obstruction. The goal is to create the best possible laws to govern our nation.

Finding an agreement is never going to be easy. But our Constitution doesn’t promise easy. It only promises there will be separation of powers, and checks and balances to protect our democracy and the American people. When the president sidesteps that process, especially out of frustration, he is pushing aside the very core tenants of our government.

American presidents are supposed to be trustworthy, even if we disagree with them. We want our presidents to rise above, but at the very least, we expect them to be honest and uphold the law. The President’s unilateral action tastes bitterly of a “my way or the highway” approach the American people loathe and our form of government rejects.

This is not a dispute between the administration and Congress, or the president and Republicans, or between political parties; this is a dispute between the administration and the Constitution of the United States.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at