The president's directive, which he unveiled with fanfare Friday, would allow immigrants who arrived in the country illegally before they were 16, have avoided legal trouble and have graduated high school or joined the military to apply for immunity from deportation. They would then be eligible for work permits, which would be issued on a case-by-case basis.
Republicans have condemned the move as an end-run around Congress, and Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona introduced legislation that would deprive the president of the authority to prevent immigration laws from being fully enforced.
This thinly veiled political ploy is detrimental to Americans, and while President Obama asks the Department of Homeland Security to 'look the other way' on immigration policy, I ask him to respect the rule of law, Schweikert said in a statement.
Top Obama adviser David Plouffe said on Sunday that a careful review of immigration laws made the administration absolutely confident this is within our authority. He noted that immigration personnel have the discretion to decide which deportation cases to pursue and which ones to close.
That reasoning also informed the Obama administration's issuing a sweeping new policy last summer that sought to redirect immigration enforcement by having field agents and prosecutors focus their time and resources on immigrants who had committed crimes or repeatedly broken immigration laws.
Schweikert is not the first Republican to call the administration's actions illegal. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a vocal advocate for restricting immigration, has vowed to sue Obama.
President Obama's actions will violate the constitutional separation of powers and at least two federal laws, King said in a statement. This is no longer a debate about immigration policy. The debate is now about the constitution and the rule of law.
The fact that Schweikert hails from Arizona conjures his state's ongoing clash with the Obama administration. After Arizona enacted a stringent new immigration law in 2010, the Department of Justice sued on the grounds that Arizona was trying to supplant the federal government's authority over immigration laws. The Arizona law's supporters said they were merely doing what the federal government would not. The Supreme Court is set to deliver a verdict on the dispute some time this month.