Q&A: Obama's deportation order constitutional, technically
Bruce Ledewitz is an internationally renowned Duquesne University law professor whose areas of expertise include constitutional law. Given the debate over President Obama unilaterally easing deportation rules for anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million illegal aliens in the United States, we sought out his expertise. His answers might surprise some.
The deportation changes allow illegals who arrived in the United States before they were 16 but are younger than 30, and who have been in the country for at least five years (among other provisions), to apply for a temporary work authorization and not face deportation.
Q: In your opinion, did the president overstep his constitutional authority with this policy change?
A: It's almost inconceivable to think of a court declaring what the president did unconstitutional. It's not clear who would have standing to challenge it. And it isn't clear that there is a specific enough policy by Congress that you could say the president is violating it. (But) I don't mean to suggest that he did the right thing. You're not asking me whether this is a good idea?
Q: No, I was asking more about the legality of the idea.
A: If you're asking technically if this was unconstitutional, I would say no. Now if you are saying all right, maybe technically nobody can go to court and get it declared unconstitutional, but doesn't it violate the spirit of the Constitution? That's a little more difficult to answer.
Q: Karl Rove said the Bush administration studied this issue extensively and felt that it didn't have the statutory authority to make a blanket (deportation) exemption without a specific change in the law. Shouldn't the president have called on Congress to enact such a law rather than issuing this fiat?
A: Nobody can dispute that would have been better. Our system is set up for Congress to make laws, not the president. On the other hand, the Bush administration did not carry out the (current deportation) law, either. They just didn't have an organized moratorium; they had an informal one.
Q: Is criticism that the president is flouting the separation of powers provision of the Constitution valid?
A: It's a valid concern. If you see this as the president not deciding where to put scarce (Department of Homeland Security) resources but instead saying, “I don't like the law, I can't get Congress to change it and therefore I'm not carrying it out” — now that's a violation of our system. It depends on which way you conceive of the policy.
Q: The president previously claimed he did not have the authority to make this change and now he's done exactly that in an election year. Do you think that the assertions that he did this to reap obvious political benefits are accurate?
A: I would hope that's not even an issue. I mean, I hope nobody would doubt that. It's obvious. Presidents do things for political reasons all the time. It does not make what he is doing right. It doesn't mean it can't violate the separation of powers. It just means that not every violation of the Constitution can be addressed in court. If you ask me if any court challenge would succeed here, I would say no.
Eric Heyl is a columnist for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bodies of Kochu, Gray found in Ohio River in West Virginia
- Penguins’ protracted slump continues with 5-2 loss at Carolina
- Hays eagle egg breaks; unclear if chick was born
- Police end standoff with New Kensington man
- Narduzzi set to begin more critical evaluations during Pitt football spring drills
- Pitt adds quarterback recruit from Cincinnati
- Brownsville man killed in 1-vehicle crash
- North Buffalo man charged with distributing child porn
- Sestak’s use of rank violates military’s code of ethics
- Pittsburgh angles to keep Heinz headquarters in merger
- About face: Pirates’ Burnett now digging the shifts