Obama Administration To Take Executive Action For Short-Term “Fixes,” and “Broader Policy Changes” Later this Year

April 17th, 2014

As immigration legislations continues to start and stall in Congress, the President (once again) seems poised to take administrative action.

House Democrats, who are stepping up the pressure on Republicans to take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation, said Tuesday the Obama administration is getting ready to take executive action on the matter very soon.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month told House Democrats he’ll take action in the next few weeks on “fixes” to immigration law, most likely dealing with deportation.

“He gave us a time frame, and there are some fixes that are going to be coming sooner, which is in the next few weeks. And then there are some broader policy changes that will be coming later this year,” Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said in a conference call.

I’ll translate “later this year” for you. It means after the election. The article, citing a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Memo, suggests that among the changes, the President would expand his Deferred Action program to not only the Dreamers, but also the family members of the Dreamers.

Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., who was in the meeting, told the Washington Examiner, Johnson did not specifically say what changes he is mulling, “except to say there are some short terms actions that he is going to take and some longer term actions.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus gave Johnson a memo when they met with him, outlining the changes they believe are needed when it comes to deportation. The CHC plan includes expanding Obama’s recent order to defer deportations of people who arrived here illegally as children, so that parents, family members and some workers are also excluded from having to leave the country if they are here illegally.

The CHC also wants Johnson to consider a proposal to allow non-citizen family members who are living outside the U.S. to “reunite with their families in the United States,” and be allowed to apply for a green card, even if they have been deported. Garcia said the proposal would help keep families intact and keep children of deported parents out of foster care.

Garcia said Johnson reacted positively to the CHC proposals.

This would effectively stop the deportation of millions. All by dint of prosecutorial discretion. This also puts the next President in a very untenable situation. Any change in the policy would lead to deportations of millions of Americans. Obama would put whoever comes into the office next into a serious, almost unescapable executive bind. And that is part of the plan.

A few weeks ago a reporter from the Houston Chronicle’s spanish language newspaper, La Voz, called me to ask about this type of executive action. I told him, flatly, that a blanket extension of the Deferred Action program to millions of immigrants would be unconstitutional. He seemed surprised to even learn that there were constitutional limits on the President’s executive powers. I took the time to walk him through the separation of powers, what prosecutorial discretion meant, and how the President was doing what Congress would not. He seemed genuinely interested, as if no one had bothered to mention these facts to him. That really troubled me. Ultimately, he did not run my quotes in his article. I hope though, at some point, this discussion makes it into the narrative.