George Graham

Shouldn’t Mercy Temper Justice?

In the news this morning:

HOUSTON (AP) — The White House promised an appeal Tuesday after a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration and gave a coalition of 26 states time to pursue a lawsuit aiming to permanently stop the orders.

So, once again, the conservative minority in America is using the courts to implement policies that are politically unpopular.  And with the ultra-conservatives in control, the Supreme Court could very well block President Obama’s progressive agenda.

Here’s the background, according to Reuters:

Obama announced a program in November to lift the threat of deportation from some 4.7 million illegal immigrants using his executive authority. The move bypassed Congress, which has not passed immigration reform legislation despite several attempts.

The program would allow some 4.4 million people whose children are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents stay in the country temporarily.

Another 270,000 people would be able to stay under the expansion of a 2012 program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that offered deportation relief to people brought illegally to the United States as children, allowing them work. That expansion was scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

The President’s actions met with furious opposition from Republican politicians, although opinion polls show most Americans appreciate the plight of the undocumented and sympathize with them.

Republican legislatures across the country joined forces to block the order in the courts. They argue that the President exceeded his authority.

I don’t think that argument will hold water. Previous presidents have used executive orders in similar situations without being stymied in court.

But I can understand the argument against granting special rights to some undocumented immigrants and not others. I concede it’s only logical that all would-be immigrants should be required to go through the same process. I had to wait in line to immigrate to the United States, and I can sympathize with those who say everyone else should do the same.

But logic is not necessarily the best standard in real life. The human condition is too complex for that. There are always extenuating circumstances, and in the case of America’s undocumented immigrants, those circumstances can be extenuating indeed.

The greatest writers in our culture repeatedly emphasize that mercy should temper justice. And we poor mortals can only hope that justice is tempered by mercy when we stand in front of the final judge.

Click for the AP story.

Click for Reuters.

Click for poll results.


About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for