Unsure how far they can go in supporting Barack Obama in his expected grant of blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants residing in the United States, the two leading liberal newspapers in the nation are hedging their bets, noting that Obama has jumped from one side of the fence to the other in the immigration debate since he became president. The New York Times and The Washington Post both released articles Wednesday outlining Obama’s reversal of his former reluctance to act unilaterally.
The Post went so far as to write, “There is no small paradox — or, as his critics say, hypocrisy — in the fact that this potential showdown is being engineered by a president with a background as a constitutional law scholar and former senator, who frequently criticized the George W. Bush administration for what he said was an overreach of executive power.”
The Times got in its shot, too, asserting, “In fact, most of the questions that were posed to the president over the past several years were about the very thing that he is expected to announce within a matter of days: whether he could do something to reduce deportations and keep families together if Congress would not act.”
What was Obama’s position over the years and how did it change?
- March, 2011: Obama said that federal laws made clear “that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”
- September, 2011: “This notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is, there are laws on the books that I have to enforce.”
- February, 2013: Responding to a question asking if he could do more to keep families together while Congress had not passed immigration legislation, Obama said, “This is something that I have struggled with throughout my presidency. The problem is, is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”
- September, 2013: Obama told Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo that he could not expand on his prior efforts that protected immigrants who had illegally emigrated as children, asserting, “If we start broadening that, then essentially, I’ll be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option.”
- November, 2013: Obama told protesters in San Francisco last November , protesters that only Congress could implement what the protesters wanted: “The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path.”
- Sunday, November 16, 2014: “Getting a comprehensive deal of the sort that is in the Senate legislation, for example, does extend beyond my legal authorities. There are certain things I cannot do. … Give me a bill that addresses those issues. I’ll be the first one to sign it and, metaphorically, I’ll crumple up whatever executive actions that we take and we’ll toss them in the wastebasket … There are certain limits to what falls within the realm of prosecutorial discretion in terms of how we apply existing immigration laws.”
Yet in 2012, Obama acted unilaterally by executive action to protect from deportation up to 1.7 million immigrants under the age of 30 who illegally emigrated to the U.S. as children with their parents. He allowed them to try to obtain temporary work permits. And in January 2013, Obama implied he would act unilaterally at some point, saying, “We’ve got some discretion. We can prioritize what we do.”
On Sunday, despite his other assertions of impotence, Obama also said, “I would be derelict in my duties if I did not try to improve the system that everybody acknowledges is broken.”
So how do the two bastions of liberalism try to find a silver lining in the murky clouds surrounding Obama’s stance on immigration? The Times pontificates, “What seems clear is that the legal advice will support Mr. Obama’s current statements about his executive powers, not his previous ones.” The Post quotes David Leopold, a Cleveland immigration attorney, avowing, “The notion that the president cannot use his authority to grant temporary reprieve is patently absurd.”
But the reality of Obama’s headstrong rush toward amnesty and usurpation of power was best summed up by University of St. Thomas law professor Robert J. Delahunty and University of California at Berkeley law professor John C. Yoo, who asked rhetorically in the Texas Law Review, “Can a President who wants tax cuts that a recalcitrant Congress will not enact decline to enforce the income tax laws? Can a President effectively repeal the environmental laws by refusing to sue polluters, or workplace and labor laws by refusing to fine violators?”