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A Nation of Paper, Not of Men

As John Yoo observes, there is no conceivable argument that the federal immigration laws are constitutionally suspect. Obama simply rejects them as a matter of policy preference. That itself is a blatant violation of his constitutional oath.

Lest we forget, the president of the United States is the only federal official required by the Constitution to swear, as a condition precedent to assuming the vast powers of his office, that he will "faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and ... to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." Nor ought we forget that every nominee to the Supreme Court and the office of attorney general is grilled by the Senate regarding his or her willingness to abide by and enforce those laws and precedents with which he or she, on policy grounds, disagrees. It is a bedrock principle that once the people's representatives enact a law to which there is no plausible constitutional objection, government officials must honor that law -- regardless of their personal views about it -- unless and until it is repealed or amended through the process prescribed by the Constitution.

Nor can prosecutorial discretion remotely justify Obama's gambit. Resources are finite. Practicality demands -- and the law acknowledges -- that good-faith judgments must be made by the Justice Department and other Executive Branch agencies regarding which violations of law are a priority to address and which may go unaddressed. President Obama, however, is not saying the Executive Branch lacks the resources to enforce the immigration laws. He is proclaiming that he chooses not to enforce them.

Moreover, he is not simply refraining from law enforcement. He is affirmatively obstructing the states from enforcing their sovereign right to police their territories. He furthermore proposes to confer positive benefits on a class of illegal aliens in order to legitimize their status, something it is in the power only of Congress to do and something which Congress -- having considered the matter carefully, and having heard the objections of the American people -- has specifically declined to do.

This is another instance of Obama's brazen lack of regard for the system he is duty-bound to honor: He claims he cannot sit back and wait for Congress to act; but as he well knows, lawmakers have acted: They said "no."