By Representative Louis Barletta
SINCE HE delivered the State of the Union address in January, President Obama has often spoken about "fairness" and how "everyone should play by the same rules."
But on Friday, President Obama unilaterally changed the rules for at least 800,000 illegal immigrants -- though some estimates put the number in the millions -- and he discarded any pretense of acting fairly.
President Obama says his administration will not deport illegal immigrants younger than the age of 30 if they meet certain criteria. Those illegal immigrants will be allowed to apply for two-year work permits that can be renewed indefinitely.
That is de facto amnesty.
The president not only ignored the will of Congress, which has wisely and repeatedly refused to grant such amnesty, and the separation of powers enumerated in the United States Constitution, he changed the rules and unfairly punished American citizens and those who are legally in this country.
President Obama's amnesty announcement directly hurts:
* American citizens and legal immigrants who are looking for work. The national unemployment rate has been higher than 8 percent for the last 40 months, yet President Obama's decision lets at least 800,000 illegal aliens compete for very scarce jobs;
* Young Americans and young legal immigrants applying for college, scholarships and financial aid. At least 800,000 illegal aliens can now compete for college admission spots, scholarships, loans and grants;
* Would-be legal immigrants, who have been patiently waiting to enter the United States to live, study and work. Now, they see that lawbreakers are rewarded for their brazenness.
* Law enforcement officials, who will face an uptick in fraudulent documentation, as illegal immigrants who do not meet President Obama's new criteria will create or purchase fake paperwork;
* Those who actually believe in fairness and the rule of law, who should be offended by President Obama's blatantly political amnesty announcement. It would seem the president agrees, or did agree. During a town hall meeting in March 2011, he said, "America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law. I don't have a choice about that." But that was 2011, and this is an election year, so the president chose to ignore his obligation.
* The U.S. Constitution, damaged by President Obama's deliberate contravention of the role of Congress in making laws. During that town hall meeting, the president said, "Congress passes the law. The executive branch's job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President."
So it's clear that President Obama understands his role and the role of Congress and the courts in setting and enforcing American immigration policy. Yet on Friday, he decided to ignore those roles.
Constitutional experts across the political spectrum say President Obama has dangerously expanded the use of executive power by bypassing Congress and unilaterally altering federal drug enforcement, No Child Left Behind standards, Internet gambling policies, and more. Now, he adds immigration policy to that list -- despite his public statements 15 months ago.
It is clear to me that President Obama not only overstepped his constitutional authority, but he acted with the knowledge he does not have that authority in the first place.
While I hope President Obama carefully reconsiders and reverses his position, I understand he will not in an election year.
I sincerely hope the next President of the United States strictly enforces all of our existing immigration laws.