Jonathan Chait thinks that supporters of immigration reform who are rooting for unilateral action from President Obama should be careful what they wish for:
... I fully support Obama's immigration policy goals. But the defenses of Obama's methods seem weak and short-sighted.And that's not going to happen if President Obama backs away now from taking steps on behalf of the undocumented? Of course it's going to happen -- the Republican Party is too radical now, too full of its own revolutionary fervor and its sense that it represents the will of all Real Americans. More to the point, the Republican faithful already believe that Obama has overstepped constitutional boundaries so blatantly that totalitarian dictators and the ghost of Richard Nixon can only gape in awe. The people who aren't considered crazies in the Republican Party -- y'know, like John Boehner, he of the House lawsuit against the president? -- aren't waiting for an immigration executive order to declare Obama an out-of-control tyrant; they call him an out-of-control tyrant now. How can whatever the president is planning have any impact on that belief, given how firmly it's already entrenched?
To imagine how this method might be dangerous, you have to abstract it away from the specific end it advances and consider another administration using similar methods for policies liberals might not like. What if a Republican president announced that he would stop enforcing the payment of estate taxes? Or suspend enforcement of regulations on industrial pollution? Or laws on workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians?
Did the Bush/Cheney administration wait for an example of alleged overreach by a Democratic president before building Guantanamo and making torture the law of the land? No. Then why would President Christie or Walker or Paul or Ryan or Cruz be constrained by an Obama change of heart on immigration now?
The only reason the next Republican president won't be a law unto himself is that he'll probably have a rubber-stamp Republican Congress to ratify every radical, extreme item on his to-do list in the constitutionally prescribed way. But if Democrats hang on in one house of Congress, the next Republican in the Oval Office will say that nothing he does or seeks to do can compare to what Obama's already done as I write this, mild though it may be in actuality. So screw it, Obama may as well do whatever he's planning.