Consider it a metonym for larger questions on the economy, the war on terror, and beyond: if we have a President who’s made his policy position clear, do we blame him, or others, when the law prevents him from making good on a promise?
Here’s the story. Two men married in Massachusetts, one an American, the other an Australian. They’ve lived together as a couple for almost a decade and their marriage, remember, is legal under both state and Australian law. On that basis, the American sought permanent residence for his husband. Earlier this week, the Obama administration denied permanent resident status, citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which establishes that a valid “marriage,” for the purposes of federal law, requires one man and one woman. Functionally, for the purposes of federal benefits (like immigration status, Social Security, etc.), the bigoted federal definition supersedes more enlightened state law.
Oh, to make matters just a billion times worse, the now-deportable Australian is dying of AIDS, and dependent on his husband’s care.
Now here’s the question. Whose “fault” is this undeniable tragedy? It’s true that USCIS may in some cases, as an act of discretion, override the law and grant resident status to this couple, but in so doing they would violate clearly applicable law.
I would hold that blame rests with the jailer, who’s tied the prisoner’s hands, rather than the prisoner, who’s either not creative or not brave enough to slip his bonds. Remember, federal power over domestic matters is an illusion absent a compliant or filibuster-proof Congress. For all intents and purposes, President Obama has never had either.