By Arnold Kling
Obama’s semi-amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants sounds like the best U.S. political news of the 21st-century.
I am less certain.
Even if you want open borders, I am not sure that this is how you want your goals accomplished. My reading of the policy is that the President is nullifying a law by refusing to enforce it. That is a precedent that could come back to haunt us.
I should point out that immigration laws already are very weakly enforced. In fact, when I drew up a list of legamorons (laws which, if they were rigorously enforced, would cause extreme disorder), immigration laws were number one on my list.
Perhaps you can think of the President’s move as analogous to civil disobedience–it is a way of calling attention to a law you don’t like. However, I think that civil disobedience is much more defensible for an ordinary citizen than it is for the President of the United States. Ordinary citizens need ways to publicize their opposition to laws. The President can publicize his opposition just by giving a speech.
In a better world, I would rather have seen the President give a ringing speech in favor of changing a law than announce an intent not to enforce it. Such a speech would be more consistent with separation of powers.
I would suggest having a broader discussion of how to address the problem of laws that many people neither want to repeal nor rigorously enforce. Having the executive nullify such laws one at a time may or may not be a good approach.