WASHINGTON – If President Barack Obama meets expectations and goes forward with an executive order to shield a reported 4.5 million illegal immigrants from deportation, the effects won’t be realized immediately.
However, analysts anticipate a taxpayer price tag in the trillions of dollars over the long run, when spending on social programs and taxation on the country’s infrastructure is taken into account.
Such costs could come in the form of added expenditures from federal programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and ObamaCare. Such actions will also put a burden on government functions at the state level – primarily education and social welfare programs, but also transportation, state police, the court system, etc.
The legal justifications of Obama’s forthcoming actions are dubious. Proponents say the executive branch has prosecutorial discretion when it comes to enforcing federal law. They will often add that the House of Representatives’ failure to act on the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill has forced Obama to provide his own relief.
The state of Alabama learned this lesson fending off challenges to HB56, legislation signed into law in 2011. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals knocked down parts of the law under the premise the Constitution does not permit states to deter illegal immigration.
House Speaker John Boehner said last week he is considering adding immigration to his proposed federal lawsuit against Obama, which mainly deals with the Obama administration’s selective execution of the Affordable Care Act.
Critics warn Boehner’s lawsuit could fall flat in that although he is the presiding Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, he may lack standing to challenge the Obama administration through the judicial system.
The Constitution prescribes how to handle an executive branch perceived to be overstepping its bounds, which is impeachment. And that’s something neither Boehner, nor his soon-to-be U.S. Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell seem to be willing to use against Obama.
State governments, on the other hand, may have more leverage.
Much like the effort a handful of state governments put together to turn back ObamaCare, a legal challenge that came up short in the U.S. Supreme Court, the states could have a case against the Obama White House for enacting amnesty without the will of the states, which is determined by elected representation in Congress.
During his reelection bid, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange spoke out against Obama’s proposed executive actions and called on the president to nominate a replacement for outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder who is opposed executive amnesty.
Strange, however, may have to consider going the next step and suing the federal government – be it by going alone or by joining with other states.
Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott (R) acknowledged his government would take action against the Obama administration should it proceed with an executive amnesty decree.
Admittedly Texas, a border state, will feel much more of the effects of legalization than will Alabama. But that does not negate such an effort as a worthy endeavor for the state of Alabama to challenge the executive action in the courts.
Over the last decade, the growth of Alabama’s Hispanic population has been mainly in the suburbs of Birmingham, but some of the growth has also occurred in Baldwin County. And the cost of illegal immigration which will likely be compounded by executive amnesty will add up.
That’s where Strange and other states’ attorneys general can make a case that’s much stronger in the federal courts than anything Boehner and company have to offer as elected members of Congress.
This legal action would take years to be settled, likely taking even longer than the remaining two years of Obama’s second term. It would, however, set precedent for the powers of the executive branch so these situations of constitutional crises would be averted in the future.
There’s also the chance for Strange to enhance his political standing in the eyes of Alabama voters.
The Alabama Office of Attorney General has been plagued with controversy through the past, which doesn’t necessarily set itself up as an office friendly to the politically ambitious. Bill Pryor had his battle with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Troy King had a number of controversies that pretty much ended his political career. And Strange is in a bit of curious spot with the Mike Hubbard indictment, as well as his confusing fight with state gambling interests.
The decades-long battle between gambling advocates and the state government isn’t the grassroots political winner. At the end of the day, it’s a complicated fight being waged behind the scenes by interests on both sides, including gambling interests outside the state that don’t want the Poarch Creek Indians to bolster their gambling interests within the state.
The fight seems to have been occupying the time of the office of Alabama Attorney General. Meanwhile, a fight against executive government overreach, particularly involving the amnesty issues – one which the American people resoundingly reject according to polling – would be a worthy endeavor and push Strange to the national stage.