Even as we celebrate the 230th anniversary of the Constitution, deep divisions remain in our nation. One of the most contentious issues we are grappling with is immigration, both legal and illegal. What should we do about it, and who has the power to make these decisions? These are some of the questions up for debate at Claremont University’s “Constitution Day” event on Sept. 23.
Since entering the White House, Donald Trump has placed three immigration-related issues squarely in the spotlight. He has issued executive orders to withhold some federal grants to sanctuary cities, end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and temporarily suspend entry from six terrorist safe havens in Africa and the Middle East.
Each order sparked emotional outbursts and court challenges. Yet on all of these issues, the president has acted within his constitutional authority, contrary to the assertions of many in the media and the courts.
Under Art. I, Sec. 8, Congress has plenary authority to establish a “uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Thus, Congress has 100 percent of the power to determine the rules for immigrating to this country, whether as a visitor or tourist or as someone who wants to become a naturalized citizen.
The president has the ability to make immigration decisions, too, but only to the extent that Congress has delegated such authority to him. Under Art. II, Sec. 3, he has a duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” That means he has an obligation to enforce federal immigration law, an obligation that Barack Obama sadly neglected. A president cannot rewrite, ignore or otherwise change existing immigration law simply because he disagrees with the law as a matter of public policy.
When it comes to terminating the eligibility of sanctuary cities for grants from the Department of Justice, the president (and his attorney general) are acting fully within the Constitution and their delegated authority. We are not talking about federal entitlement funds for programs like Social Security or Medicare. The Trump administration wants to cut off access only to discretionary funds. (Local jurisdictions apply for them, and the attorney general decides who gets the available funds.)
The administration is simply asking applicants to certify that they will comply with federal immigration laws and not obstruct federal enforcement. Making Justice Department grants conditional upon those two requirements is both…