Facing growing opposition to his economic proposals and dimming prospects that Congress will pass other parts of his agenda, President Obama told a Hispanic group in Washington Wednesday that when it comes to the issue of immigration, "I'd like to work my way around Congress."
"As I mentioned when I was at La Raza a few weeks back, I wish I had a magic wand and could make this all happen on my own," Obama told a meeting of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. "There are times where -- until Nancy Pelosi is speaker again -- I'd like to work my way around Congress."
As he continued, Obama conceded that "we've got laws on the books that have to be upheld." But he quickly added there are different ways to uphold the laws on the books. "You know as well as anyone that…how we enforce those laws is also important," Obama said. Last month, the administration made a major, unilateral change in immigration law enforcement when it announced that the government will not initiate deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants unless they have committed serious crimes. To critics, Obama had indeed worked his way around Congress. To the Hispanic Caucus, Obama said his new policy will "prioritize criminals who endanger our communities, not students trying to achieve the American dream."
The bigger problem, Obama said, is that sort of unilateral enforcement (or non-enforcement) only goes so far. "We live in a democracy, and at the end of the day, I can't do this all by myself under our democratic system," he said. "If we're going to do big things -- whether it’s passing this jobs bill, or the DREAM Act, or comprehensive immigration reform -- we're going to have to get Congress to act."
This is the second time in recent months that Obama has publicly mused about going around Congress to enact immigration reform. In that speech to La Raza in July, he said that "some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own" -- a prospect Obama said he found "very tempting." But the president quickly added, "that's not how our system works."