In a 2-1 ruling Monday, President Obama’s Executive Actions to expand relief to millions of illegal immigrants received their biggest legal rebuke yet. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit voted to uphold the lawsuit filed by 26 states that argued that Obama’s actions placed undue duress on the states and exceeded the President’s constitutional powers.
The decision means that one of Obama’s signature immigration initiatives remains on hold nearly a year after he announced it through executive action and leaves in doubt whether the program will begin before his term expires in January 2017. Republican presidential candidates have pledged to dismantle the program, creating additional urgency within the Obama administration to get it started.
“The president must follow the rule of law, just like everybody else,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Monday. Texas led a coalition of 26 states that brought the lawsuit. “Throughout this process, the Obama Administration has aggressively disregarded the constitutional limits on executive power.”
The legal decision did not come as a surprise, and the Obama administration had been planning alternative courses of action to circumvent the legal process should the appeal fail. One of the likely plans currently under review include the mass issuance of work permits to any person within the United States border no matter their legal status. The benefit, as described within the leaked memos which detail the plan, of such an action would “address the needs of some of the intended deferred action population.”
Obama, who had repeatedly admitted he lacked the ability to rewrite immigration law prior to attempting to do just that, now faces the prospect of yet another of his legacy defining actions being decided by the Supreme Court.
“Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own,” Obama told members of a National Council of La Raza conference who shouted back, “Yes, you can! Yes, you can!”
“That’s not how our democracy functions,” Obama responded. “That’s not how our Constitution is written.”
Obama, locked in a fight with Congress over the federal debt ceiling, joked, “Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you. Not just on immigration reform.”
“But that’s not how,” the president said. “That’s not how our system works.”
So what changed to cause Obama to go the route he chose to go down–attempting to rewrite laws through Executive Action?
John Podesta, for one.
The founder of the Center for American Progress and one of the principal architects of the Obama Administration joined the administration as Counselor to the President on January 1, 2014, and within a month a request to prepare for a surge of unaccompanied minors appeared on a government contractor website. In fact, the contract request was posted less than twenty-four hours after Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address where he called for a “year of action” and assured the nation that he could rule with his “pen and phone”.
Podesta said when tapped by Obama to join the administration that he had a stack of Executive Actions the president should take up. In 2010 Podesta co-authored a 48-page report titled “The Power of the President: Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change.”
The summer 2014 “border surge” of unaccompanied children was blamed in part on inaccurate reporting in Central American media that said that children and parents would not be deported from the United States due to changes in policy enacted by the Obama Administration.
[Washington Post] [The Hill] [USA Today] [The Daily Caller] [NPR] [Center for American Progress] [Photo courtesy Al-Jazeera]