One less executive order to worry about

(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

Indiana was one of 26 states challenging President Obama’s executive order on immigration, so Gov. Mike Pence earned the victory lap he took. He praised the Supreme Court decision that blocked the president’s action, saying it upholds a fundamental constitutional principle that presidents “cannot unilaterally change the law.”

Obama’s order would have prevented deportation for millions of people here illegally. Pence called it an “end run” around the democratic process. He said the proper way to make changes to immigration laws is passing a bill through Congress.

Pence deserves to be pleased, but he should not really expect that this setback will change the president’s intentions one whit. After expressing disappointment with the court’s decision, Obama assured his immigrant constituents that nothing in his administration’s approach would change: Illegal immigrants who don’t run afoul of the law will not be touched.

This should surprise no one. Why would a president who doesn’t care what the Constitution says care about what the Supreme Court says?

The court did not really do anything about Obama’s executive order. It merely decided, on a 4-4 vote, not to hear the case. That means the ruling in the case on appeal, from a Texas federal judge, will stand. It does not bind the Supreme Court’s hands if it decides it wants to hear another case.

So add immigration to the list of issues — including gun control, affirmative action and a variety of other controversial proposals — that this divided court will not be able to address. With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court now has four liberal justices who think the Constitution is a “living document” and four conservative justices who think it should be strictly interpreted.

It is glaringly obvious that the Supreme Court is a much bigger issue in this presidential election than in elections past. The next president gets to choose Scalia’s replacement, and that justice will create a five-member majority one way or the other. The direction of the court will thus be shaped for generations.

And it also matters what our next president thinks of the Constitution and how it should be treated. If you listen to nothing else Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump say, at least pay attention to that.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.