Skip to main content

An Act of Clemency

Obama has been the least lenient president in this country's history. Fact. Up until this weekend, Obama had only pardoned 22 people in his entire administration, compared to more than a hundred for his predecessor George W. Bush. The twelve individuals the president pardoned almost double the number of people who have received a new start.

The presidential pardon is one of the executive branch's most important and paradoxically underused powers. The president has nearly unlimited power to grant clemency to whomever he or she wishes and yet because that proposition tends to run afoul of some special interest, the pardon is increasingly rare in the modern presidency.

Which is what makes one particular recipient of the pardons this weekend so interesting. An Na Peng was pardoned after her 1996 conviction for an immigration violation. The case is somewhat complicated, An Na admitted to a visa violation before realizing that such an admission rendered her vulnerable to deportation. Well, she's now been pardoned, which means she can now go through the same process any immigrant does to become a citizen of this country. I, for one, wish her the best of luck.

This one case offers an interesting precedent for the future. At the moment, a bipartisan group of six is working on reforming the immigration system of this country. One of the issues hotly debated right now is whether or not to offer a path to citizenship for the millions upon millions of undocumented immigrants in this country. There is a sizable faction of the Republican Party (perhaps the majority) that wishes to deny this. Romney vision of 'self-deportation' has been soundly defeated, but the Republicans are understandably reluctant to permit the millions of people currently dwelling in the shadows of this system access to the vote. They sense, entirely correctly, that these millions will not be inclined to vote red after the decades of electioneering and demagoguing against them.

I would like, before I set out a radical proposal, to maintain that a bipartisan bill approved by both houses of the legislature after rigorous debate is the best way to go about immigration reform. It is the course least likely to result in social strife and abuses of the system, and the one most in keeping with this country's democratic values.


However, if for some reason the congress can't get together to enact legislation giving the millions upon millions of people a legitimate path towards legal citizenship in the country they have so obviously adopted as their own, there is another course.

The president could pardon them.

The power to grant clemency is nearly unlimited by the Constitution of the United States. An example of a similar mass pardon occurred in 1977 when Carter pardoned draft dodgers, one of his first acts when he gained office. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who had immigrated to America were allowed to rejoin American society, the crime of avoiding selective service forgiven.

Perhaps a blanket pardon isn't even necessary. Perhaps Obama can simply pardon those brought to this country when they were children. I'm not sure it even matters. The point is, perhaps a threat will suffice, a significant lever for bringing about the enfranchisement of millions of Americans. Americans well motivated to vote for progressive causes and an end to the gridlock currently pinioning Washington.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 

SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…

"A Breath from the Sky" Story Announcement!

I am thrilled to share the news my story, "Promontory," will appear in an upcoming anthology of unusual possession stories published by the incredible Martian Migraine Press. The anthology, "A Breath from the Sky,"puts together a classic H.P. Lovecraft tale and twenty other atypical stories of possession. Judging from the cover and the list of impressive authors, I'm anticipating pure awesomeness. "Promontory" is a possession story and one of my more overtly horror tales, so I'm overjoyed that it found a host, er, home here. I am sharing the Table of Contents below, as well as a link to the announcement on the Martian Migraine website to provide a sense of what this collection will be about. The cover is amazing, the other authors selected for the collection are amazing, and I have to say, having a story appear alongside a classic tale like HP's "Colour Out of Space," feels pretty darn amazing. I hope to provide more information abou…

In Defense of Brevity

As a writer of short speculative fiction, I am also a reader. I was a reader first and my love of the genre leads me to want to write short fiction. I think one of the most important things a writer can do is read contemporary's work. If nothing else, you're likely to be entertained - there's a great amount of stupendous short fiction available out there for exactly nothing. But it also tends to helps to develop craft. 
Long-time readers of this blog know I write up recommendations of a few short stories each month I really enjoyed. "Sic Semper, Sic Semper, Sic Semper by Carl Wiens" was my favorite story of the year. The first line of this story pretty much sums it up: "The time traveler set up a studio apartment in Abraham Lincoln’s skull in the frozen moment before Booth’s bullet burst through and rewired history," but I also enjoyed "The Girl Who Escaped from Hell" By Rahul Kanakia and "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies," by Brooke Bol…