Obama intends to implement by executive order the Obama 2012 DREAM Act which has never quite made it through Congress:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.
The policy change, announced Friday by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It also bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who have attended college or served in the military.
I am surprised this is legal, although, as Ericka Johnsen of Hot Air notes, the point is votes, not legality:
Can President Obama even do this without Congressional approval? I’m not sure, but then again, it hardly matters. If he can, great; if he can’t, great: It’s just another jab he can aim at an “obstructionist,” “do-nothing” Congress.
There was a time when Congressfolks would oppose even a President of their own party to protect their institutional powers. Well, we have all passed a lot of water since then...
SINCE THEY ARE RELYING ON PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION... Hey, kids, Obama could legalize pot the same way - just announce that Federal violations of marijuana laws won't be enforced (presumably for small amounts).
Remarks by the President at Univision Town Hall
Bell Multicultural High School
Q My question for the President is why saying that deportations have stopped or the detention of many students like me? Why is it that we are still receiving deportation letters like this one?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Jorge, I said before we have re-designed our enforcement practices under the law to make sure that we’re focusing primarily on criminals. And so our deportation of criminals are up about 70 percent. Our deportation of non-criminals are down. And that's because we want to focus our resources on those folks who are destructive to the community. And for a young person like that young woman that we just spoke to, who’s going to school, doing all the right things, we want them to succeed -- which is why I have been such a strong proponent of the DREAM Act; why I reiterated during my -- (applause) -- why I reiterated during my State of the Union speech that we need to pass the DREAM Act. We came close in December. It almost happened.
And for those students here who aren’t familiar with what the DREAM Act says, basically what it says is if you’re a young person who came to this country with your parents, even if you were undocumented when you came here but you were a child -- you didn't make the decision -- you’ve grown up as an American child, and we want your talents here in the United States. And if you have done right in your community, if you’ve been studying hard, if you’ve been working in school, you should be able to go ahead and get a process towards legalization and a process whereby you can be a full-fledged citizen in this country.
We almost were able to get it passed. We fell a few votes short. I believe that we can still get it done. But it’s going to be very important for all the viewers of Univision, all the students who are interested in this issue, we’ve got to keep the pressure up on Congress. And I have to say without being partisan that the majority of my party, the Democrats, I got their votes to get this passed, but we need a little bit of help from the other side. And so all of you need to contact your members of Congress, contact your members of the Senate, and let them know that this is something that is the right thing to do.
America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law. I don't have a choice about that. That's part of my job. But I can advocate for changes in the law so that we have a country that is both respectful of the law but also continues to be a great nation of immigrants. And the DREAM Act is a perfect example of a law that can help fix this.
Of course, I believe that we also have to have an even more comprehensive reform of our immigration system. It’s broken right now. We have to have secure borders. We have to make sure that businesses are not exploiting undocumented workers, but we have to have a pathway to citizenship for those who are just looking for a better life and contributing to our country. And I’ll continue to fight for that. (Applause.)
MR. RAMOS: Mr. President, my question will be as follows: With an executive order, could you be able to stop deportations of the students? And if that’s so, that links to another of the questions that we have received through univision.com. We have received hundreds, thousand, all related to immigration and the students. Kay Tomar (ph) through univision.com told us -- I’m reading -- “What if at least you grant temporary protective status, TPS, to undocumented students? If the answer is yes, when? And if no, why not?”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, temporary protective status historically has been used for special circumstances where you have immigrants to this country who are fleeing persecution in their countries, or there is some emergency situation in their native land that required them to come to the United States. So it would not be appropriate to use that just for a particular group that came here primarily, for example, because they were looking for economic opportunity.
With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed -- and I know that everybody here at Bell is studying hard so you know that we’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws.
There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President.
That does not mean, though, that we can't make decisions, for example, to emphasize enforcement on those who’ve engaged in criminal activity. It also doesn’t mean that we can't strongly advocate and propose legislation that would change the law in order to make it more fair, more just, and ultimately would help young people who are here trying to do the right thing and whose talents we want to embrace in order to succeed as a country. (Applause.)
I have not rolled the tape but here is a White House webchat on the DREAM Act, with this intro:
Thanks to the participation of young people from all over the country, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Cecilia Munoz took great questions on whether the legislation would encourage people to come to the United States illegally (it would not) and whether the DREAM Act can be implemented by the President via Executive Order (it cannot, which is why he is strongly urging Congress to do the right thing by passing it).
EXECUTIVE DECISION: From the NY Times:
His executive order, which Latinos and other immigrants have been pleading for since Congress turned aside an effort to pass similar legislation...
And the LA Times:
Still, supporters noted that the executive order would only hold as long as Obama was in office.