Email #142: “drastic implications for our Republic”?

On January 25, President Trump signed an executive order that empowered “State and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer” and declared that “jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply … are not eligible to receive Federal grants.”In short, any place that doesn’t spend its resources enforcing immigration laws loses its federal funding.

But, as you know, only Congress can place those kinds of conditions on federal dollars, and so on Tuesday, Judge William H. Orrick ruled that the President was overstepping his powers and blocked his executive order. San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera responded:

“This is why we have courts — to halt the overreach of a president and an attorney general who either don’t understand the Constitution or chose to ignore it.”

Although you dislike so-called Sanctuary Cities like San Francisco, you must still be pleased with the judge’s ruling. As you have pointed out many times in your own statements:

“Our constitutional system of three co-equal branches of government and a Bill of Rights therefore prevent one branch from assuming too much authority without a challenge from the other branches of government.”

As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, that responsibility of challenging the executive branch falls on you. You were vigilant about it in the past. You wrote in April 2016 in response to the Supreme Court case challenging President Obama’s executive actions on immigration:

“The case … is fundamentally about preserving the separation of powers and its outcome will have drastic implications for our Republic…. he does not have the authority to change our nation’s immigration laws on his own. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will stop President Obama’s lawlessness so that we protect the Constitution and the intent of the Founding Fathers that the legislative branch, which reflects the will of and is accountable to the American people, makes the laws, not the President.”

Since Donald Trump became President, however, you seem unconcerned about such “lawlessness.” I assume this is because the President is also the leader of the Republican party, and so you are in the difficult position of having to challenge your own boss.

Alternatively, your criticisms of Obama were never principled: you were only using the Constitution as a prop to feign outrage and score political points. In which case your failure to hold the executive branch accountable now is consistent: you prioritize your duties to your party over your duties to your country.

Fortunately, Judge Orrick has stepped in and done your job for you.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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