George Washington's DACA Warning
If it is still possible in today’s environment to look to George Washington for advice and wisdom, might I suggest we do so now?
Washington, following eight years as president, left us sound counsel in his farewell address. The country was dividing along two factions, precursors to the two political parties to come. He saw passions rising and the stakes were high.
Pursuit of separate visions, he knew, would tear the country apart unless rule-of- law prevailed and the Constitution was respected, regardless of whom was in power.
“If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong,” he said, “let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But, let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.”
Often, when we know we are right, we just want what we want. How we get there is irrelevant. This ends-justifies-the-means approach is what Washington feared. It would lead to vacillations in policy, lawlessness and eventual destruction of the Republic.
Both factions in his day, the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans and the original Federalists, were certain they were correct.
Washington admonished them to adhere to the rule-of-law and make changes only according to the compact that each state had ratified. One should not take the easy path and implement what he wanted while in power. Such manipulation would come back to haunt its architect, he warned.
We have witnessed exactly this phenomenon through the Obama administration. We realize it now through the rearview mirror. Recent immigration policies are further proof that Washington’s counsel was worth heeding.
Many would rather take that shortcut and have a president breach the Constitution in order to get their way. It is so much easier than holding accountable the branch of our government entrusted with that duty.
Our President’s decision to allow DACA to expire has been deemed cruel, racist and proof he is evil. None of us can glimpse his heart but what we can know for sure is that neither he, nor his predecessor have or had the power Constitutionally-delegated to implement or continue DACA.
Like it or not, we are a nation of laws. These rules bind us. Last time I read the rules on immigration it still said that Congress has the power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”.
Trump’s heart may be an unknown, but I give him the benefit of the doubt.
My heart is known to me, however. Those who point an angry finger and label as racist those not in favor of DACA continuance miss critical points. They are wrong, too, in their judgments of those who support DACA expiration.
Many, self-included, sympathize with “Dreamers,” and find unconscionable the efforts to expel them. Yet, we also want to see rule-of-law restored and respected. We seek to force Congress to do its job. Where does that fit on the cruelty scale?
(I reference a prior article that provides my view on illegal immigration at www.jeffutsch.com. I equate the underage smoking problems of the 70’s and 80’s, in effect, to a culture that allowed, even encouraged it and to then wantonly blamed the kids who smoked for the problem).
Many of us just want the rule of law followed and enforced. We recognize Washington’s warning as real. We see evidence of our nation dividing now, as laws are seemingly obeyed or disregarded a la carte.
Lincoln warned us in his Lyceum speech that, were we to become a nation of arbitrary laws, we would fall. He stated: “I so pressingly urge a strict observance of all the laws, let me not be understood as saying there are no bad laws, nor that grievances may not arise, for the redress of which, no legal provisions have been made. I mean to say no such thing. But I do mean to say, that, although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still while they continue in force, for the sake of example, they should be religiously observed.”
If a law is unjust we need to change it in a Constitutional way. Otherwise, it must be enforced.
One of the biggest dangers to our Republic is the winner-takes-all mentality in the Presidency. Because so much rides on who occupies the Oval Office, we are left with an ever-growing, nasty cycle.
This is because Presidential power has increased over time and, in large measure, because we demand he get done the things we want done, even if an action is clearly unconstitutional.
The proper method to most change, the legislative process, is too difficult and slow for far too many. Our Legislative branch is all too willing to be an accomplice in this extra-Constitutional action by any President. It gives them cover to not need to take a side on any given controversial issue while at the same time pointing fingers and blaming the Executive branch for any missteps.
This is exactly what is going on in immigration policies and reform. Our Legislative Branch is the branch that should be handling this issue. It is a hot potato so they are all too happy to let the President carry the load and avoid the harsh political backlash that will come whatever choice they may make.
It is time to stop this destructive path. Demand Congress do the right thing — act to change or clarify the law. Act to protect those affected by DACA if that is your choice or act to implement a policy that we, and others looking to come to our country, can understand and follow.
It is amazing how those claiming Trump had no authority to keep out people from seven nations now maintain he does have the authority to unilaterally continue DACA. Is it not ironic that, if Obama didn’t step outside his Constitutional power and unilaterally implement DACA, either the Republican Congress would have had to act or it would have been hammered by mainstream media as callous and cruel? Might that have alienated enough people to have given us a different result last November?
By following the Constitution and adhering to Washington’s counsel on how to handle the tough issues of any day we can properly solve the DACA dilemma, begin to restore the
proper balance of power in DC and prolong the days of our Republic.