Reporter Asks Obama What Limits Him From Acting Like an Emperor or King on Immigration (Video)

At the G-20 summit press conference in Brisbane Australia, Sunday, President Obama took some tough questions from the media. While Obama’s “Gruber who?” moment got the most play, there was another striking moment at the press conference when a reporter asked him about his impending executive action on immigration, reminding the president that he has on several occasions rebuked the idea of passing immigration reform on his own.

ABC’s Jim Avila wondered how Obama squared those past statements condemning executive action, with his current plans to pass immigration reform through executive action.  

Obama answered by saying that in speaking with immigration advocates in those instances, he had only meant to say that he couldn’t pass the comprehensive immigration reform that had stalled in congress all by himself. He claimed that he has been consulting with the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel for legal advice, but the WSJ editorial board is skeptical of that, noting in an oped yesterday that “Obama sought no such legal justification in 2012 when he legalized hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.”

The only document we’ve found in justification is a letter from the Secretary of Homeland Security at the time, Janet Napolitano, to law enforcement agencies citing “the exercise of our prosecutorial discretion.” Judging by recent White House leaks, that same flimsy argument will be the basis for legalizing millions more adults.

It’s possible Messrs. Obama and Holder haven’t sought an immigration opinion because they suspect there’s little chance that even a pliant Office of Legal Counsel could find a legal justification. 

In Brisbane, Obama again went the extortion route, saying this “perception” (which 75% of the American people have that “somehow” he’s “exercising too much executive authority” goes away if Republicans give him the bill he wants – at which point he’ll “crumple up whatever executive actions that we take and we’ll toss them in the wastebasket.”

AVILA: Following up on immigration — in 2010, when asked by immigration reform advocates to stop deportations and act alone on providing legal status for the undocumented, you said, “I’m President, I’m not king. I can’t do these things just by myself.” In 2013, you said, “I’m not the emperor of the United States.My job is to execute laws that are passed.”Mr. President, what has changed since then? And since you’ve now had a chance to talk since July with your legal advisors, what do you now believe are your limits so that you can continue to act as President and not as emperor or king?”

OBAMA: Well, actually, my position hasn’t changed.When I was talking to the advocates, their interest was in me, through executive action, duplicating the legislation that was stalled in Congress. And 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. There are certain limits to what falls within the realm of prosecutorial discretion in terms of how we apply existing immigration laws.
And what we’ve continued to do is to talk to Office of Legal Counsel that’s responsible for telling us what the rules are, what the scope of our operations are, and determining where it is appropriate for us to say we’re not going to deport 11 million people. On the other hand, we’ve got severe resource constraints right now at the border not in apprehending people, but in processing and having enough immigration judges and so forth. And so what’s within our authority to do in reallocating resources and reprioritizing since we can’t do everything. And it’s on that basis that I’ll be making a decision about any executive actions that I might take.
I will repeat what I have said before: There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I’m exercising too much executive authority. Pass a bill I can sign on this issue. If Congress passes a law that solves our border problems, improves our legal immigration system, and provides a pathway for the 11 million people who are here working in our kitchens, working in farms, making beds in hotels, everybody knows they’re there, we’re not going to deport all of them. We’d like to see them being able, out in the open, to pay their taxes, pay a penalty, get right with the law. 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, because we will now have a law that addresses these issues.

AVILA: But in those five months, sir, since you said you were going to act, have you received the legal advice from the Attorney General about what limits you have –


Q — and what you can do?

AVILA: And would you tell us what those are?



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