WASHINGTON—House Speaker John Boehner last week announced the House would sue President Barack Obama for abusing his executive power. Within days, Obama indicated he would again push the limits of his authority: “I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress,” Obama announced during a Rose Garden press conference Monday afternoon.
Obama’s proclamation not only flies in the face of Congress, but also the U.S. Supreme Court: Last week the high court unanimously ruled the president made illegal appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012. It was at least the 12th time the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the White House overstepped its authority.
Obama was undaunted.
“I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing,” he said—without offering his constitutional justification for doing so. “In this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, is bad for our economy, and is bad for our future.”
Obama said he would use his executive power to shift resources from interior enforcement toward the southern U.S. border, which has recently been overwhelmed by a flood of unaccompanied minors. Obama blamed the problem on House Republicans, who have refused to take up a bipartisan immigration overhaul the Senate passed last year. He said last week Boehner informed him the House would not consider reform legislation this year.
Obama announced he would request $2 billion in emergency funding to help address the current border crisis. He stressed the continued need for legislative action but did not detail all of what he plans to do, saying he’ll wait on his team to return recommendations at the end of the summer. The timeline increases the likelihood that immigration will play a major role in the November elections.
Most polls indicate a majority of Americans support immigration reform, including a possible path to legal status for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, although a new Gallup poll shows a plurality still oppose increasing immigration levels.
In Washington, the influx of Central American child migrants has made an already difficult situation politically impossible. Republicans say Obama’s 2012 action to halt deportations for some child immigrants and his lax enforcement policies have inspired many to risk coming to the United States.
Democrats point to the record number of agents patrolling the southern border and record deportation numbers as proof Obama is actually strong on immigration enforcement. They also note that asylum requests in Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize have spiked 712 percent since 2009, indicating people are fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Honduras averages about 7,000 homicides a year—that's 19 murders a day for a country with population roughly equivalent to New Jersey.
After interviewing more than 400 child migrants, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees found that 58 percent could qualify to stay in the United States as refugees or political asylum seekers, since many were threatened with “join or die” gang recruitment efforts. Only nine cited U.S. immigration policies as a reason for making the dangerous trek across the border.
“House Republicans agree that the situation along our country’s southern border needs to be addressed, but any ‘solution’ that does not begin with securing our borders and enforcing current law is no solution at all," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. "As usual, President Obama is using gasoline when a fire extinguisher would be more appropriate."