Robb: Illegal immigration debate belongs in Congress, not the courts
Robert Robb: It's a mistake to rely on judges, not elected leaders, to call the shots on immigration policy.
It would be nice to have a grownup political debate about immigration. And leave judges out of it.
Donald Trump was elected president. He ran on a platform of restricting immigration. His views on the subject were hardly hidden. The American people elected him knowing what they were.
Now, I happen to mostly disagree with Trump about immigration. And, in the American democratic system, the losers of elections don’t have to just shut up and go away. They continue to have a role in policy and political deliberations.
So, we should be having a robust debate about immigration, particularly in Congress. Instead, it seems we mostly are having litigation, and judges, not elected officials, are calling the shots.
Court nixes travel ban because it doesn't like Trump's motives
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Trump Administration's immigration travel ban. The travel ban prohibits some travelers from 6 middle eastern countries from entering the United States.
Trump issues a ban on travel to the United States from certain countries. There is a federal statute that gives the president the authority to prohibit the entry of any individual foreigner or any group of foreigners any time he thinks it is in the national interest. No specific reason is required.
The response of those who disagreed with Trump’s travel ban, which I did, should have been to importune Congress to overturn it. The grant of authority Congress gave could be withdrawn or circumscribed.
Instead, opponents ran to the courts, and district court judges issued injunctions against Trump’s travel ban.
Not on the grounds that he didn’t have the authority to issue it. Given the explicit statute, that would be a difficult argument to make, even for a federal judge.
Instead, the judges enjoined the travel ban on the grounds that it was issued with impure motives. During the campaign, Trump said things about Muslims that the judges disapproved of. Therefore, Trump could not be allowed to exercise the presidential power Congress had expressly granted him.
The U.S. Supreme Court twice rebuked this judicial tut-tuttting and allowed portions of the travel ban to go into effect.
Next: Court says Trump can't have a reason to end DACA
President Obama decided to give young adults brought to this country illegally as children work and study permits and remove the threat of deportation. This was justified as an exercise of the administration’s prosecutorial discretion.
The Trump administration concluded that the program was an executive branch overreach and ended it, with a delayed termination date.
If Obama had discretion to establish the program, surely Trump had discretion to end it. Again, the appropriate response of those who disagree was to lobby Congress to enact legal status for so-called "dreamers."
Another run to the courts. Federal district court judges issued injunctions on the basis that the Obama program was constitutional and the Trump administration was wrong about that.
Yet a president is free to restrain the exercise of his authority on his belief that it would be unconstitutional, even if some court somewhere might uphold it. Moreover, how was the Trump administration supposed to get a court to consider whether the program was constitutional? Sue itself?
According to the logic of these rulings, the Trump administration could have ended the program for no reason, but couldn’t end it based on a good-faith belief that it was unconstitutionally established.
Now: Will a court say federal law doesn't apply in California?
President Trump is putting California on notice with a threat to pull ICE officers out of the state. Veuer's Nick Cardona has that story.
Now, the Trump administration is suing the state of California, acting as plaintiff rather than defendant.
California passed legislation designed to make the enforcement of federal immigration laws more difficult in that state.
Employers were forbidden to voluntarily cooperate with federal immigration officials during an investigation about illegal employees. They were prohibited from providing any documents or information except subject to a court order.
Another law limits the ability of law enforcement and jail officials to share information with federal immigration officials.
The Trump administration should win this lawsuit. A state can’t forbid private parties from voluntarily cooperating with federal officials. And a federal statute prohibits limiting the ability of local law enforcement to exchange information about legal status with federal officials.
Yet, I suspect that it will end up losing the case. Some judge will concoct a reason why federal immigration law is supreme when Arizona wants more done against illegal immigration, but isn’t when California wants less.
This is not how we should govern
When it comes to public policy, the federal judiciary, at the district court level, isn’t a neutral, independent arbiter. It’s reliably liberal. So, it’s natural that liberals should repair there.
And I understand that immigration debates in Congress aren’t grownup.
But having judges decide these matters enervates representative government. And that’s not healthy.
Reach Robb at email@example.com.
MORE ROBB COLUMNS: