Obama Crafts Legal Rationale for Immigration Steps

Josh Lederman, Yahoo! News, August 27, 2014

The White House is crafting a blame-it-on-Congress legal justification to back up President Barack Obama’s impending executive actions on immigration.

Facing an expected onslaught of opposition, the administration plans to argue that Congress failed to provide enough resources to fully enforce U.S. laws, thereby ceding wide latitude to White House to prioritize deportations of the 11.5 million people who are in the country illegally, administration officials and legal experts said. But Republicans, too, are exploring their legal options for stopping Obama from what they’ve deemed egregious presidential overreaching.

A self-imposed, end-of-summer deadline to act on immigration is rapidly approaching. While Obama has yet to receive the formal recommendations he’s requested from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, administration officials said the president is intimately familiar with the universe of options and won’t spend much time deliberating once Johnson delivers his recommendations.

After resisting calls to act alone in hopes Congress would pass a comprehensive immigration fix, Obama in June bowed to immigration activists and said that “if Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours.” The most sweeping, controversial step under consideration involves halting deportation for millions, a major expansion of a 2012 Obama program that deferred prosecutions for those brought here illegally as children.

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Other options under consideration, such as changes to how green cards are distributed and counted, might be less controversial because of the support they enjoy from the business community and other influential groups. {snip}

Obama’s goal had been to announce his decision around Labor Day, before leaving on a trip next week to Estonia and Wales. But a host of national security crises have pushed the announcement back, likely until after Obama returns, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

Obama’s actions will almost surely be challenged in court.

“Any potential executive action the president takes will be rooted in a solid legal foundation,” White House spokesman Shawn Turner said.

What’s more, Obama may have undermined his case because he has insisted time and again that he’s the president, not the king, and “can’t just make the laws up by myself.” In a 2012 interview with Telemundo, Obama defended his decision to defer deportations for children but said he couldn’t go any bigger.

“If we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option,” he said then.

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The House already has passed legislation to block Obama from expanding DACA and, through its power of the purse, could attempt to cut off the funds that would be needed to implement the expansion. {snip}

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