Tragically, I took history, government, social studies and civics in the eighties and nineties. Back in those days, we learned about the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judiciary (these were the big three that the Constitution set forth). I really thought I had this info down cold – so much so that I got fancy and studied other countries’ governmental systems. Once I “conquered” that particular intellectual realm, I went to law school to put a finer point on my governmental education of the United States.
These days, everything I know about U.S. Government (and the U.S. Constitution, for that matter) has been declared fairly irrelevant. With the law, I’m getting used to it. Laws change all of the time – either by judicial decision or by legislatures. But the way the government works? The frameworks though which it operates? The shift to legislative (and to a large extent judicial) irrelevancy and executive dominance has thrown the whole system into chaos. Not the crazy we’re all gonna die chaos, but a more subtle so this is how it’s gonna be chaos.
Our founding fathers wanted three branches of government, so each branch could be a check and a balance on the others. If the executive went all out and did something crazy, the legislative or judicial branches could reign that back in. It’s happened before in our History, most notably in the 19th century, when government (and the different and varied players involved) was sowing its oats, so to speak, attempting to nation-build and push to the limit what our fledging country would and could become. A good example of these checks and balances in action can be found when the country attempted to begin a national bank (too long to go into here, but fascinating how every branch got involved).
That doesn’t appear to happen today. The executive branch pretty much figures out what it wants to do, and then does it. In high school, college, law school and even in schoolhouse rock, I learned the idea for a bill originates in either the executive or legislative branches (mostly the executive branch). Then, bill goes through a committee, then to the floor for a vote in the first house, through a committee and a vote in the second house and then to the executive for his signature. Bing, bam, boom – done. If there’s a challenge to the freshly signed law somewhere along the way, the courts hear the arguments for both sides and then rule on the constitutionality and legality of the law.
Today, the executive figures out what he wants to do and then just does it. He has his staff draft an executive order and then he signs it. Abracadabra – a new law is born (and I can only imagine how short and how exciting that schoolhouse rock episode would be), and the most interesting place where this issue has collided with the new paradigm is on the subject of immigration.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am not against legal immigration. All of us (or most all of us) came from somewhere else. I would hate to see what my life would be like if I still lived in the old country. But if you want to live here, and become a citizen, there are rules and a process you have to follow. Just by signing a piece of paper, and granting citizenship (or at least green cards) to a whole mess of people is not a rational, reasonable or logical strategy to take.
For a great many visas, even if you want to convert the temporary visit to a green card, the applicant has to (if they’re in the United States already) leave the U.S. and return to their home country to complete the application process. They then have to have a meeting with the consulate in their home country and obtain a physical conducted by a medical doctor. Upon completion of these tasks and an approval by the consulate, they can move on to their next step toward citizenship.
Why this process? Because it works. Because we allow those in that actively want to be here. Because we allow those in that have no illnesses that could easily tear across our country. Because we allow those into the country that want to better themselves and America by being here.
And we have no place for those – even those in the executive branch – that subvert the rules for easy, quick fixes.
I’m just a bill, indeed.