HOLDEN — When Congress failed to pass President Obama’s “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, which would have doubled legal immigration, legalized 11 million undocumented workers and shielded employers from prosecution, he faced angry demands from Hispanic and business lobbies to act unilaterally.

Last summer the White House hosted 20 meetings with immigration activists and business executives to craft an executive action incorporating many of the features of the failed bill. According to The New York Times, “The go-it-alone approach has left the administration – which claims to be the most transparent in United States history – essentially making policy from the White House, replacing congressional hearings and floor debates with closed meetings for invited constituents.”

In other words, if he doesn’t get what he wants, Obama ignores Congress.

When Obama asked voters to put his “policies on the ballot” this fall, voters sent him a resounding repudiation on immigration. The American public never asked for a massive expansion in foreign workers. With 18 million Americans looking for full-time jobs and a decade of stagnant wages, we don’t need more workers.

In June, Gallup asked Americans: “Should immigration be kept at its present level, increased, or decreased?” Seventy-four percent opposed an increase.

The Obama administration has repeatedly undermined immigration law enforcement by states, arguing that it’s exclusively a federal function. Obama has exempted most illegal immigrants from deportation, ostensibly focusing on criminals. He’s gutted interior deportations by 40 percent and falsely claimed he’d increased deportations, by counting simple border removals as deportations.

In both blue and red states, elected officials who took a tough stand against illegal immigration won big in this election, like Sheriffs Chuck Jenkins in Maryland and Sam Page in North Carolina, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, to name a few.

In blue state Oregon, 68 percent of the population voted to overturn a law giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, though opponents of the measure were outspent 10-to-1.

In Maine, Gov. LePage stood firmly against public benefits for people who he considers to be illegal immigrants, requiring municipalities to comply with his interpretation of federal law by removing illegal immigrants from General Assistance. And despite a contentious four years in office, he was re-elected.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who’s worked for years to repeal a law giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, told CNN, “We have created an industry of human trafficking. People are getting paid to bring other people from all over the country to New Mexico for the whole purpose of defrauding our state.” She won re-election by a 14-point margin in a state with a sizable Hispanic population.

Immigration is not a liberal or a conservative issue. It’s a fight between business elites and ethnic activists versus the people. It’s a fight between an open-borders, free-trade, globalist vision for America’s future versus national sovereignty, tight labor markets protecting the middle class and the rule of law.

Sadly, Obama is on the wrong side of this fight. He knew it. That’s why he waited. He just didn’t appreciate how badly he was on the wrong side. And even The Washington Post is warning him not to act unilaterally.

Obama’s executive action is not “reform.” It’s capitulation in the face of mass lawlessness at the behest of self-serving business and ethnic lobbies, working behind the scenes to bypass the constitutional process.

The immigration system is not broken. What’s broken is the political will in Washington to enforce existing laws.

Many liberals were enraged when President George W. Bush used executive action to allow waterboarding at Guantanamo. And peace activists, like myself, were dismayed that presidents repeatedly went to war without congressional approval.

If we allow Obama’s executive action on immigration, we feed an imperial presidency and give the go-ahead for future presidents, Democratic or Republican, to ignore Congress and use executive actions to accomplish their personal crusades. A banana republic might operate like this, but not a constitutional democracy.

What can we do? Congress can pass a spending bill that denies Obama the funds to carry out his executive amnesty. If Obama loses, he can remind Hispanics, as he did in 2010: “I am president. I am not a king. I can’t do these things just by myself.”

U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree and U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King face a defining moment. They could withhold the funds for executive amnesty and get him off the hook.

Obama’s a good man. But he’s only human. And he promised his friends something he never should have.

— Special to the Press Herald