Ken Paxton

Attorney General Paxton Speaks at Heritage Foundation Discussion on the Case Against President Obama’s Executive Amnesty

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 – Washington, D.C.

*Note: The general often deviates from prepared remarks. 

Good afternoon  thank you all for being here today. I’d like to begin by extending my appreciation to Sen. DeMint and everyone else at the Heritage Foundation for helping organize this event and for being a leading voice in the conservative movement across the country.

Many of you may know that in Texas, we have an organization that took its inspiration from Heritage, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and they’ve played a huge role in making Texas the success story it’s become. So, the movement you’re actively leading extends far beyond the Beltway improving the lives of people across the country.

Thomas Jefferson once described the ideal government as “so divided and balanced among general bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”

Or, as James Madison put it, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands whether of one, a few, or many and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” 

The good news is, separation of powers and checks and balances remain the law of the land. The bad news is there are increasingly fewer people who seem to believe in that. That’s disconcerting during a time when the President of the United States is attempting to end-run Congress to impose and implement his own immigration laws. That’s not at all what the country is all about.

Our country was founded on the separation of powers, three branches of government each performing their duties as best they can working in tandem to make a better country for us all. No one branch was intended to dominate the others. I understand that can be frustrating at times.

“Sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish you could just bypass Congress and change the law but that’s not how a democracy works.” Sorry, I must admit to a bit of plagiarism on my last sentence there that’s actually something President Obama said in May of 2011. So, anyway …

“Administratively, we can’t ignore the law. The fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that have to be enforced.” Okay, I did it again. That was from something President Obama said in September of 2011.

I can make light of how he’s made a complete 180-degree shift in his thinking on this but it’s actually very troubling. Because nothing changed in the law between the time he was correctly noting the limits of his power and the time more recently when he decided he could do whatever he wanted. Other than the makeup of Congress, perhaps but that can’t be a factor when we define what a president can, and cannot, do.

You can begin to see what the President is really up against as he tries to sell the courts and the American people on the idea that he can arbitrarily re-write the law whenever he likes. That’s a big reason the lawsuit Texas is leading now includes more than half the states in the union. They realize his amnesty program is awful public policy but even more than that, they rightfully reject the idea of the executive branch hijacking the legislative process.

Now, in Texas, we are facing major repercussions if this policy comes to fruition. You may remember that last summer, we had a massive influx of illegal immigrants crossing the border in Texas … many of them children seeking to take advantage in President Obama’s previous changes to the law. As we look down the barrel of this new wide-ranging amnesty program we have to keep in mind the massive effects this will have on our states moving forward.

As President Obama continues imposing new laws to attract and retain illegal immigrants states will have to pay more for education health care public safety the list goes on and on. In fact, Texas itself has had to beef up our border security since last June spending nearly $100 million of our taxpayer’s dollars to increase law enforcement presence along the border since then. Gov. Perry even deployed the National Guard to help the overwhelmed Border Patrol who were too busy dealing with unaccompanied minors to dedicate attention to keeping the bad guys out. Now, we’re looking at the prospect of a repeat of all that or worse should President Obama’s actions be allowed to stand.

Our new governor, Gov. Abbott who it’s worth reminding everyone launched our lawsuit back when was Attorney General is solidifying plans to continue defending our border for as long as it takes. But Texas isn’t alone every state would bear some of the weight of this decision again, a decision made by one man with no input from the states and no input from Congress.

The question before us is whether any President should have the authority to circumvent Congress whenever a legislative battle proves too challenging.

Texas, and 25 other states, have come together to say with one voice that this is fundamentally wrong and entirely unacceptable. Last week, a federal judge agreed with us, and stopped this program in its tracks a mere day before paperwork would be processed and people who a day earlier would’ve been required to be deported would be invited to stay indefinitely.

I’d like to read a couple of excerpts from the ruling, if I may. Usually these things are kind of dry but this one just leaps off the page:

“The DAPA program clearly represents a substantive change in immigration policy if anything, it contradicts the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is, in effect, a new law.”

“The states assert that the Government has abandoned its duty to enforce the law and this assertion cannot be disputed.”

“This Court finds that, directly interested or not, the public interest factor that weighs the heaviest is ensuring that actions of the Executive Branch comply with this country’s laws and its Constitution.”

Think about that a second a judge has to actually say that the executive branch should comply with the Constitution. He also went on at length about how this program once enacted would be next to impossible to reverse. That actually makes the Administration’s motion earlier this week asking for a stay so they could begin implementing this program not only disingenuous but almost devious. They’re well aware that the second they begin running the paperwork it’s effectively “game over,” and the states will be at the mercy of the administration. Of course, that seems to be the way President Obama prefers it.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that President Obama’s action effectively allows millions of illegal aliens to cut to the front of the line in front of people who have been patiently waiting their turn to come to America the right way. I’m not sure what message he thinks that will send to the world at large.

There’s a long way to go between here and there, however and we are firm believers in our arguments and the President’s arguments, depending on when he made them.  Any of you who have spent much time in Washington which is pretty much all of you understand, however, the crapshoot that is our federal judicial system. You never know what panel you’ll be assigned and you never know what a group of judges is going to do. However, we’re confident because we’re on the right side of this argument and we’ll make that case as far as we have to.

We’re going to make that case because we’re believers in the rule of law and we understand the importance of preserving it. The rule of law, in fact, is what has always separated America from the rest of the world. Our Founding Fathers had just witnessed what happens when a monarch with unchecked powers asserted his will on his subjects and they crafted a system to prevent that from happening again. At the heart of it was the rule of law.

The rule of law means not everybody gets what they want. The rule of law means that sometimes, you’ll have to live with outcomes you may not like. Regardless, though, you follow the law  and for nearly two and a half centuries, that’s helped maintain our nation’s status as a bastion of freedom and liberty for all. Once you undercut the rule of law you dramatically weaken the foundation of the greatest democracy the world has ever seen.

Even if the President thinks he’s doing it for good reasons and we profoundly disagree with the President in this case he runs the risk of undermining the beauty and genius of our system. The irony, of course, is that many of the immigrants coming here are coming here because they’re fleeing the kinds of places where the rule of law doesn’t exist or is ignored by the people in power. In any system of government, the rule of law is what stands between freedom and tyranny and we can’t afford to waver in its defense.

The President’s actions run counter to the principles established by our Founding Fathers and would cause significant, potentially irrevocable damage to the system of checks and balances that are the foundation of our entire system of government.

In Texas, we’ll continue to fight for the rule of law and the blessings of liberty that it provides.

Once again, I thank you all for you time and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.