Skepticism towards the president often signals a healthy republic. But there comes a point when mechanical opposition stops being about the law and starts being about the man himself. At that moment, what we risk is not an imperial presidency but an impotent one.
President Trump made the decision Monday to reissue an executive order, which temporarily halts immigration from a small group of terror-prone countries. As with its predecessor, the order takes careful steps to minimize its impact on innocent parties. Only this time, federal officers have clearer instructions on how to avoid overbroad enforcement.
Absent that confusion, the argument against the executive order’s legality falls apart.
The president issued the executive order in direct response to an ongoing weakness in the refugee vetting process.
FBI Director James Comey explained back in October 2015 that background checks of citizens from a failed state represented a unique challenge because “there are certain gaps ... in the data available to us.” The same conditions that forced refugees to flee also prevent the government from accessing local databases to crosscheck a refugee’s identity.
Under such conditions, the president has the power — no, the responsibility — to take reasonable steps to secure the border. This includes briefly shutting off the spigot until the security leak is sealed.
What’s more, Trump acted with the weight of Congress behind him. The Immigration and Nationality Act gives the president broad discretion to determine whether a non-citizen’s entry “would be detrimental” and then impose “any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
The Supreme Court has acknowledged that when the president acts in concert with Congress, his power, and the deference his judgment is owed, is at its zenith.
There is no magic formula that will screen for terrorists while side-stepping each and every guiltless migrant. There is only a man, who is doing his best to defend the country with the tools the Constitution gives him — if only we would let him do his job.
Ken Paxton is the Texas attorney general.
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