For years President Obama has maintained he didn’t have the legal authority to slow the record pace of deportations under his administration of people who entered the country illegally.
During a town hall on Univision in 2011, for instance, he passed the buck on deportations before a mostly Hispanic audience by saying, “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 was then, this is now.
Sticking a finger into the political wind leading up to the 2014 election, Obama now says he can use his executive powers “to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”
In June, Obama said, “I take executive action only when we have … a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future.”
His administration is trying to determine how far the president can go in changing immigration policy. Some legal experts say Obama probably could delay the deportations of millions of immigrants and issue them work permits so they could legally find jobs, obtain driver’s licenses and pay income taxes. Actions sure to tempt many more to enter the country illegally.
However, some experts also say Obama probably could not grant permission to stay permanently or grant citizenship – or make them eligible for social programs such as welfare, food stamps or Obamacare.
Despite the flip flop, Obama has said repeatedly Congress should address immigration directly. And that is what our elected representatives should do.
But even if they won’t, he should remember that he’s only president. Not king.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.