The following is part of our CNN’s You Decide series.
CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent Dan Merica just returned from working on a CNN project with John Kerry, which explored how international law worked in the case of U.S. presidents facing impeachment. During his tenure as attorney general, Biden was responsible for exercising the Justice Department’s autonomy and insisting that the President had the right to violate that law as well. In fact, this constitutional conflict between the administration and the Legislative branch was one of the reasons that James Madison was able to convince John Jay, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to create the Electoral College.
With the possibility of the presidency becoming vacant at any moment, and the consequences of trying to transition to a different leader for a fragile nation, it’s not too far a stretch to imagine the next President implementing this executive authority to issue an executive order on immigration that’s significantly different from President Obama’s.
What could that look like? The text of the Executive Order is still secret, but here are some ideas:
– A travel ban that includes a religious exception.
– A halt to admitting refugees from certain countries.
– A ban on admitting permanent residents (green card holders) from the selected countries.
– A mandate to build the wall and stop immigrants from entering the United States.
– An immediate increase in the number of deportations.
– An automatic election of the next president during the 2020 redistricting process.
Even Biden himself acknowledges there is no doubt about the implications of his proposal. When asked about the possibility of President Trump issuing an executive order of his own to close immigration lanes, the former vice president responded: “He cannot do it, because he would be the president of the United States, and he is not the president of the United States. And if he were to violate the law as it’s written today — and then he’d be impeached as the president of the United States. So if there were to be an executive order, it would not be mine, because I would be impeached.”
President Biden’s verbal disparagement and vituperation in response to the notion of a presidential executive order on immigration was not only absurd on the merits (the Constitution states that the President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces) but damaging to the good will that the “biden wall” had with those opposed to the wall. He also appeared to ignore the ethical questions this proposal would raise regarding using his office to criminalize an entire community.
I would also argue that anyone in the wrong in this debate is John Boehner’s wife. If you know Boehner, he views politics as a reflection of the larger moral universe, not a struggle between private interest and public good. John Boehner was never someone who imagined America was a place for self-determination, but rather for the purpose of maintaining a constitutionally-recognized order that protects its citizens from arbitrary government action. John Boehner viewed those who had interests in the immigration debate in a way that a normal person might view the sitting president.