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Obama: 'There Are Certain Things I Cannot Do' Unilaterally on Immigration

Obama: 'There Are Certain Things I Cannot Do' Unilaterally on Immigration

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On Sunday, President Barack Obama conceded that there are some things he “cannot do” unilaterally on immigration.

At a G20 press conference in Australia, Obama was asked why in years past he has said he could not act as an “emperor” or a “king” to “just do things by myself” on immigration. He was also asked what has changed since then and what, if any, his limits were.

Obama, who has previously said that his “job is to execute laws that have passed,” claimed that his position actually has not changed. Obama spun that pro-amnesty advocates in the past were asking him to enact the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill through executive action. 

“Getting a comprehensive deal of the sort that is in the Senate legislation, for example, does extend beyond my legal authorities,” Obama conceded before adding that “there are certain things I cannot do” on immigration and “there are certain limits to what falls within the realm of prosecutorial discretion in terms of how we apply existing immigration laws.” 

Obama, when asked if he has received legal advice about his limits, said that he did, but he would not reveal what government lawyers have told him he could not legally do alone on immigration. Obama said he would reveal what his limits are “when I make the announcement” on executive amnesty. 

In 2013, a pro-amnesty heckler in San Francisco interrupted Obama’s speech and screamed that Obama had the “power to stop all deportations.” Obama replied by saying, “Actually, I don’t.”

“The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws,” Obama said then. “If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, I would do so.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and pro-amnesty advocates have asked Obama to enact many of the provisions of the Senate’s amnesty bill via executive action, with some of the more extreme voices on the left demanding that Obama give temporary amnesty to everyone who would have qualified under the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill, which would encompass nearly every illegal immigrant in the country.

Numerous reports have indicated that Obama will unilaterally grant amnesty and temporary work permits to as many as five million illegal immigrants, including the parents of DREAMers, as early as next week before Congress goes home for the Thanksgiving recess. Conservatives like Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are trying to pressure Congress to prohibit the White House from using federal funds to enact his executive amnesty. Last week, more than 50 House Republicans wrote a letter urging Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), the Appropriations Chair, to include language in a potential omnibus bill to prohibit the White House from spending federal funds to grant work permits to illegal immigrants. 

After Democrats got thumped in the midterm elections in large part because voters disapproved of Obama’s executive amnesty (75 percent of voters in a Polling Company poll disapproved), Sessions emphasized that “voters sent Congress a Republican majority to protect them—and their borders—from the President’s unlawful executive amnesty.”

“Now we must follow through on that pledge. Congress’ most basic Constitutional power is the funding power. We use it all the time to direct how appropriated money can and cannot be spent,” Sessions said last week in calling for a short-term funding bill if current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) does not agree to language that would prohibit funding for Obama’s executive amnesty. “A long-term funding bill that does not deal with President Obama’s unconstitutional overreach, adopted before a single newly elected Republican is sworn-in, would be to acquiesce to the President’s unlawful action.”

While a funding showdown looms in Congress, Obama reiterated that he took current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) word that there will not be a government shutdown on Dec. 11 when Congress must pass a bill to fund the government.  McConnell, who will be the Senate Majority Leader in the next Congress, declared that, “there will be no government shutdowns and no default on the national debt.”

Obama, on Sunday, said that Congress should “pass a bill I can sign on this issue” if lawmakers think “I’m exercising too much executive authority.” Obama said he would figuratively “crumple up” his executive amnesty if Congress passes an amnesty bill that provides a pathway to citizenship to all of the country’s illegal immigrants. 

Obama will return from Australia on Sunday evening and will reportedly finalize which actions he will unilaterally take on immigration this week.


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