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Opinion: With the Stroke of a Pen

Day 1: Obama illegally decrees amnesty for many illegal immigrants

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Conn Carroll,Columnists,Immigration,Barack Obama,President,Analysis,Executive Power Series

Day 1 of a 10-part Washington Examiner series "With the Stroke of a Pen:  How Obama Abuses Executive Power to Make the Law of the Land."

Locked in a fierce fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, President Obama promised Univision host Jorge Ramos, “I cannot guarantee that it is going to be in the first 100 days. But what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I'm promoting. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible.”

But Obama’s first year in office came and went without any significant support for immigration reform such as the DREAM Act. Obama also let almost all of 2010 go by without any action.

Only after Democrats lost the House in November 2010 did Obama secure a vote for the DREAM Act in Congress. And then the Senate promptly failed to muster the 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster.

By 2012, Obama was heading into an election year where he desperately needed Latino voters to turn out for him. But he had nothing to show them. He had broken his promise to promote immigration reform during his first year in office, and he had waited until after a crushing defeat in the midterm elections to pursue the issue at all.

About this series

On Nov. 16, 2010, just days after voters gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives, the progressive think tank Center for American Progress published a report titled "The Power of the President."

Obama-Biden Transition Project Chairman John Podesta introduced the report, writing that "in the aftermath of this month's midterm congressional elections, pundits and politicians across the ideological spectrum are focusing on how difficult it will be for President Barack Obama to advance his policy priorities through Congress."

"Some debate whether the administration should tack to the center and compromise with the new House leadership," Podesta continued.

"As a former White House chief of staff, I believe those to be the wrong preoccupations. President Obama's ability to govern the country as chief executive presents an opportunity to demonstrate strength, resolve, and a capacity to get things done," Podesta said.

Not only did Obama almost immediately embrace the report's call for maximizing executive power to achieve progressive ends without Congress, it even branded the effort "We Can't Wait," thus advertising the fact that Obama had abandoned all pretense of following the U.S. Constitution's carefully drawn separation-of-powers doctrine.

In this Washington Examiner series, Senior Writer Conn Carroll documents the many times Obama has flagrantly abused executive authority to advance his liberal agenda without congressional approval.

The top 10 instances will be examined over the next two weeks, and more will come later.

Stories in this series

1. Immigration amnesty by executive memo

2. The employer mandate delay

3. War in Libya

4. The illegal Solyndra contract modification

5. Rewriting federal education law by waiver

6. Unconstitutional NLRB appointees

7. The Yucca Mountain delay

8. Gutting welfare reform

9. The Gulf of Mexico drilling moratorium

10. Regulating the Internet

Instead of taking his case to the American people in an election year, Obama abandoned the democratic process entirely by unilaterally rewriting American immigration policy.

On June 15, 2012, Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Illegal immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16, were younger than 31, had been in the United States for at least 5 years, were either in school or had graduated high school, and had not committed “significant” crimes, would be given “deferred action” status.

Sometimes also called “non-priority enforcement status,” immigrants granted such relief are not citizens, or even legal permanent residents. But they can obtain a work permit, get a Social Security number, and apply for a driver’s license. The status is temporary, however, and must be renewed every two years.

Presidents have exercised prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement since the founding of the country. Some immigrants are favored over others for foreign policy reasons, other immigrants are targeted for their political beliefs, and still others are granted relief for humanitarian reasons.

But these acts of discretion were always done on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis. They were not a wholesale rewrite of immigration policy, let alone one that had been specifically rejected by Congress.

Never before in the history of the United States had an American president rewritten immigration policy by administrative fiat. The tactic is so new, and so audacious, that there is simply no body of case law available to establish that the scope of Obama’s administrative amnesty plan is illegal.

And the scope of Obama’s administrative amnesty is still growing. On Aug. 23, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency issued a memo directing all ICE personnel to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in favor of any illegal immigrant who claimed they were a parent or guardian of any minor currently in the U.S.

The memo does not direct ICE agents to grant these immigrants formal “deferred action” status, but it does make it highly unlikely any of them will ever be deported.

Since it is unlikely any individual U.S. citizen could establish standing in federal court to challenge any of these actions, nothing is stopping Obama from administratively granting amnesty to every illegal immigrant in the country today, and those that enter as long as he remains president.

The only way to stop Obama is for Congress to deny executive branch funding for implementing any aspect of the administrative amnesty he is ordering by executive decree.

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