Jeffrey Rosen writes in the WSJ:
“President Donald Trump has issued a series of controversial executive orders on immigration that are now tangled up in federal courts. Judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked the president’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries, and another judge in Seattle has blocked his executive order threatening to remove federal funding for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents.
If this contest between branches of government sounds familiar, it should. President Barack Obama also tried to use executive orders to push through his own very different immigration policies, and he was similarly rebuffed by the courts. They held that he lacked the unilateral authority to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
There’s a lesson in the symmetry of these two examples, and figures from across the political and ideological spectrum are increasingly embracing it: Many of the issues that recent presidents have tried to decide at the national level through executive orders are best resolved at the state or local levels instead. In an era of fierce partisan divisions, all sides are beginning to see the virtues of our federal system in accommodating differences—and encouraging experimentation—on issues such as immigration, law enforcement and education.
Federalism has long been a cause on the right, but now it’s just as likely to be a rallying cry on the left. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary’s immigration and border-security subcommittee, recently said: “The Constitution, specifically the Tenth Amendment, protects states’ rights, and it prohibits federal actions that commandeer state and local officials. When it comes to immigration, these principles seem to be overlooked.”
The framers of the Constitution would be pleased with this emerging consensus. By creating a national government with limited powers, they intended to allow the states and local governments to pursue a range of different policies on matters within what used to be called their “police powers”—that is, their authority to regulate behavior, maintain order and promote the public good within their own territory. The founders considered this arrangement the best way to protect liberty and diversity of opinion, as well as to defend political minorities from nationalist tyranny and concentrated power.”
Perhaps this is a return to constitutionalism. But, perhaps it’s more representative of the failure of Congress to effectively address the need for comprehensive immigration reform.