The President and Immigration

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This past weekend, we all saw massive public outrage in major cities throughout the country. It was directed at the Jan. 27 issuance of an executive order, signed by President Donald Trump, addressing immigration. With the executive order, the president ordered the suspension of entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, as well as anyone from Syria for an indefinite period and anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days.

The crowds of protesters, which included members of Congress, called the president a tyrant. The president argued that he was lawfully protecting the country from those who might facilitate terrorist attacks here. Can he legally do this?

Here is the back story.

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The Constitution expressly gives Congress the power to regulate naturalization, which is the process of becoming an American citizen. It does not expressly give it the power to regulate immigration, which is the process of legally entering the country. From 1776 to 1882, Congress recognized this distinction by staying largely silent on immigration, and thus, anyone could come here from anywhere, with the only real regulation being for public health.

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In 1882, Congress gave itself the power to regulate immigration, contending that although the Constitution was silent on the issue, the concept of nationhood gave Congress the ability to regulate the nation’s borders and thereby control who was permitted to enter from foreign countries and under what circumstances.

In response to economic competition from Asian immigrants in California — and in the midst of anti-Asian racial animus — Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of…

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