- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2014

President Obama said he will use his “lawful authority” to issue a highly anticipated executive order in a prime-time address Thursday night that will change the rules on deporting illegal immigrants and which is already touching off a firestorm of opposition from Republicans.

In a video posted on Facebook, Mr. Obama said Wednesday he will outline “some steps that I can take to start fixing our broken immigration system.” His action is expected to grant legal status and work permits for as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, including deferring deportation for the parents of U.S. citizens.

“Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken,” Mr. Obama said in the video, seated on the edge of his desk in the Oval Office. “Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long. So what I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”

Mr. Obama will address the nation at 8 p.m. Thursday and follow it with a trip to a high school in Las Vegas on Friday, where he’ll lay out more details of the plan. It’s expected that the plan will cover the parents of legal residents but not the parents of children who are eligible for delayed deportation under the “deferred action” program for “dreamers” that Mr. Obama created unilaterally in 2012.

The executive order will set up a showdown between the White House and Republicans in Congress, who have warned Mr. Obama not to take the action. Two key House Republicans urged Mr. Obama on Wednesday to hold off on his plans, and warned that they’ll try to stop the White House from implementing his executive order.

“Instead of proceeding with ill-advised executive action, we implore you to work with Congress to enact legislation to address our broken immigration system,” House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, said in a letter to the president.


SEE ALSO: A common-sense prescription for immigration


“We strongly urge you to respect the Constitution and abandon any unconstitutional, unilateral executive actions on immigration,” they wrote. “Let’s secure the border, enforce our immigration laws in the interior of the United States, and build a broad consensus for immigration reform. Otherwise, as the chairmen of the committees with oversight over border security and our nation’s immigration laws, we will be forced to use the tools afforded to Congress by the Constitution to stop your administration from successfully carrying out your plan.”

Presidential historian Andrew Polsky of Hunter College said it’s often difficult for lawmakers to rescind a presidential order through legislation.

“The vast size of the national bureaucracy, which falls under the authority of the president, further encourages presidents to act through executive orders — there is little that the federal bureaucracy doesn’t touch,” Mr. Polsky said. “At the same time, presidents issue orders because, under these conditions, Congress is unlikely to undo an executive order by passing legislation to reverse the presidential action.”

While the White House said Mr. Obama will be acting to benefit all Americans with his order, a new poll showed Wednesday that nearly half of Americans don’t want him to make the move, and only a slight plurality of the poll’s small Hispanic sample size supported it.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 48 percent oppose Mr. Obama taking executive action on immigration, while 38 percent support it; another 14 percent have no opinion or are unsure. Among Hispanics, 43 percent said they would approve of him acting alone, and 37 percent opposed the idea.

The survey found that 63 percent of Democrats support the move, and only 11 percent of Republicans favor it.

A top aide to Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, renewed his party’s blunt criticism that the president is acting beyond the scope of his authority.

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

This was in reference to Mr. Obama’s repeated past declarations that he could not issue blanket waivers against deportation because “I’m not an emperor” and similar formulations such as “not a king.”

The White House scoffed at the accusation that Mr. Obama is behaving like a dictator and said the president even enjoys the criticism.

“We’ve heard this kind of rhetoric about lawlessness from the House Republicans for some time,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “The president is somebody who’s willing to examine the law, review the law and use every element of that law to make progress for the American people. And if that is something that Republicans are critical of, that’s, you know, maybe a criticism that the president wears with a badge of honor.”

Mr. Obama hosted a dinner Wednesday night at the White House with 18 Democratic lawmakers — no Republicans were invited — to “talk through” the executive order, Mr. Earnest said.

The White House may have been forced into revealing the timing of the announcement sooner than planned when the AFL-CIO inadvertently disclosed the plans in an email Wednesday.

“We hear there will be a prime time Thursday evening announcement (to preview) and full unveiling in Vegas on Friday,” AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Hauser wrote in an email to members, a message that was also inadvertently sent to reporters. “Can folks begin to work and plan watch parties for Thursday and/or Friday? Unclear whether Thursday night content will be what is ‘celebratory,’ but Friday will be where we need a lot of energy guaranteed.”

The Reuters news agency said Mr. Obama’s immigration order will expand assistance for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. It is not expected to extend health care benefits under Obamacare to those affected by the order.

The plan also could include more resources for border security, an issue that Republicans raise most often.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that Mr. Obama has “fairly wide latitude within existing executive authority” to act on his own on immigration reform, and will do so in a “comprehensive” way.

“It can’t be that we’re not allowed to lift a finger to fix the broken immigration system until Congress acts, and we’ve been waiting for Congress to act,” Mr. Johnson said at an event at the National Press Club.

Mr. Johnson, who has been conducting a review of immigration law in preparation for the president’s order, said the pending executive actions are necessary because House Republicans haven’t passed an immigration bill to the president’s liking.

“As the president has said many times, legislative action is always preferable,” Mr. Johnson said. “But we’ve waited now for years for the Congress to act, and the Congress has not acted.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, who is in line to become chairman of the Budget Committee next year, said the Senate should not authorize funds to carry out Mr. Obama’s order.

“President Obama’s immigration order would provide illegal immigrants with the exact benefits Congress has repeatedly rejected: Social Security numbers, photo IDs and work permits — which will allow them to now take jobs directly from struggling Americans in every occupation,” Mr. Sessions said. “Congress must not allow this unconstitutional action. That means Congress should fund the government while ensuring that no funds can be spent on this unlawful purpose.”

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