WASHINGTON – Two political commentators agreed Monday that President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration reform will probably remain in effect because Congress is unlikely to take action to change it.
“The intention was to provoke a response from Congress,” William A. Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. “That isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.”
Ross Douthat, op-ed columnist at The New York Times, concurred.
“A Debate over Executive Order: Obama’s Immigration Decision” was a political and opinionated conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute about whether Obama abused his authority when he issued the executive order allowing many undocumented adult immigrants to remain in the U.S.
Gary J. Schmitt moderated the event. He is a resident scholar at AEI, co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies and director of the Program on American Citizenship. He said that Douthat and Galston were chosen to present their opposing views because they are both well informed.
“Both of them have written smart publications through their media outlets on the issue and neither of them were narrow minded,” Schmitt said.
Douthat and Galston agreed that there isn’t much response coming from the Republican-controlled Congress, meaning that any action on immigration reform will likely happen later rather than sooner.
Douthat said the media and public tend to move on from issues such as immigration, which has been debated for years without resolution. The executive order is confusing enough that it’s unlikely to draw people’s interest.
Douthat argued that Obama’s executive order was “constitutionally inappropriate” and the “sheer size” of the number of people affected by it conveyed the amount of irresponsibility.
“He is clearly acting on the face of congressional opposition,” Douthat said. “In regards to constitutional appropriateness, it is simply bullying.”
Douthat said nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants should “bear the consequences of being here illegally.”
Galston’s listed six reasons the president was acting with authority, including the separation of powers in government.
“The issue here is understanding the executive branch,” Galston said. “This is essentially a struggle between the executive branch and legislation. … It is not unreasonable for Obama to challenge Congress with actual legislation. It is Congress’ responsibility now to respond.”
Galston said he originally thought it wasn’t possible for a president to issue such an order.
“I spent nearly a week researching constitutional rights,” Galston said. “Indeed, Obama was more on legal ground than what I understood.”
Galston said the solution to an activist presidency is an activist Congress, to which Douthat responded that the president was not only “expanding his powers, but the powers of future presidents.”
Reach reporter Jose Soto at [email protected] or 202-408-1494.