Editorials

Good news and bad news about immigration

President Barack Obama has chosen to ask the Supreme Court to rule on his immigration executive order.
President Barack Obama has chosen to ask the Supreme Court to rule on his immigration executive order. ASSOCIATED PRESS

The immigration debate once again took center stage this week on the national agenda, in one forum as an issue of law and substance and in another — the Republican debate — in rhetorical flights of fancy as unreal as the presidential aspirations of some of the already vanished candidates.

But here’s the good news: Some Republicans are beginning to speak the truth to the GOP debate audiences, many of whose members have been pumped full of unrealistic promises about deportation, a wall with Mexico, and who will pay for the costs of building it.

When Donald Trump once again promised to build the wall, deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and have Mexico pay for the wall, he was roundly chastised by at least two other candidates who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid.

Trump’s scenario — sending back half a million immigrants per month — is “just not possible,” warned former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “It’s not embracing American values, and it would tear communities apart, and it would send a signal that we’re not the kind of country that I know America is.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who by virtue of his job has to live in the real world and not in Mr. Trump’s Alice-in-Wonderland theme park, quickly jumped in with his own sobering remarks: “We all know you can’t pick them up and ship them back across the border,” he said. “It is a silly argument, it is not an adult argument.”

The decision to challenge Mr. Trump head-on regarding immigration, his signature issue, suggests that the debates are having a positive impact on the Republican race.

The more that candidates and their audiences are forced to focus on real solutions for real problems, the better off the electorate will be. That would leave Mr. Trump and his fanciful notions out of the loop.

As for the other forum, the news is not so good for advocates of immigration reform. A federal appeals court said President Obama had exceeded his authority by relying on executive power to provide work permits and protection from deportation for 5 million undocumented immigrants.

It has become a default position for pundits and politicians alike to attack judicial decisions they don’t like as the result of unwarranted political considerations. In virtually every instance we know of, such attacks are themselves unwarranted, and that is the case with the 2-1 ruling of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The president has rightly chosen to ask the Supreme Court to rule on the immigration executive order.

The court said that the Obama administration’s immigration program aimed at protecting undocumented parents of American citizens went beyond the powers that Congress has authorized for the chief executive. We don’t like it, but we respect the court’s decision and its reliance on legal reasoning.

Still, the president has rightly chosen to ask the Supreme Court to rule on the immigration executive order. Mr. Obama did not act willfully or without considering the legislative branch, but rather acted out of frustration with a Just-Say-No Congress that has repeatedly failed to resolve the problem of 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country.

Just as it’s unrealistic to say they can all be deported, so it is irresponsible for Congress to stand by idly and fail to take action. This inaction creates its own level of frustration in the public arena and puts the spotlight on demagogues like Donald Trump with their wildly implausible ideas.

The issue Mr. Obama wants the Supreme Court to consider should not be resolved simply by dealing with the details of executive orders, but rather must deal with the a president’s right to take action — his duty to act — when Congress for purely political reasons refuses to do its part.

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