Two Ways President Obama Could Act On Immigration The Obama administration is considering executive action on immigration, and it could come within weeks.
NPR logo

Two Ways President Obama Could Act On Immigration

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/339596510/339611067" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Two Ways President Obama Could Act On Immigration

Two Ways President Obama Could Act On Immigration

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/339596510/339611067" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Seigel. The Homeland Security Secretary is looking at ways President Obama can act on immigration on his own. A menu of possible executive actions is being prepared and President Obama is expected to act by the end of summer. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports on what the president can do.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: President Obama's decision, expected within weeks, in some ways has been years in the making. It is built on his own action two years ago to defer deportation for so-called Dreamers - those are young people brought to the country illegally as children - and it is built on congressional failure. To pass a sweeping immigration overhaul, a dream act or even an emergency funding measure to deal with all the unaccompanied children arriving at the border. So says the president...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm going to have to make choices. That's what I was elected to do.

KEITH: At a press conference last week, the president sounded ready to act on his own.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: I promised you, the American people don't want me just standing around, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done.

KEITH: One person who wants him to act boldly is Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat representing Chicago.

CONGRESSMAN LUIS GUTIERREZ: I believe the president is going to act in a broad manner and when I say that, I don't mean to sensationalize, but that means millions of people.

KEITH: He thinks the president will expand on the program for Dreamers, with the goal of keeping families together. So that might mean giving temporary status to the undocumented parents of children born in the U.S.

GUTIERREZ: And I think he says to himself look, there nearly 5 million American citizen children who have one or both parents that are undocumented and you know what, I going to let those parents raise those kids.

KEITH: He also thinks Obama is likely to give relief to the spouses of American citizens who currently would have to leave the country for up to a decade before being allowed to reenter the U.S. legally. That idea was suggested by Congressman Raul Labrador, a Republican from Idaho who is part of failed talks to pass an immigration overhaul in the house.

CONGRESSMAN RAUL LABRADOR: They're all ideas that we can go to the legislative process and get done, and some of them might be good ideas.

KEITH: Labrador says if Obama acts on his own, it would only make matters worse in the House, which is already suing the president over his use of executive power.

LABRADOR: He's going to poison the well, he's going to make it impossible for us to do immigration reform with him and the most unfortunate thing is that it's not going to be a permanent fix. It's going to be a fix that only lasts until the end of his term.

KEITH: But Paul Virtue says there's a long history of immigration authorities using prosecutorial discretion - setting priorities for who to deport. He's a partner at the law firm of Mayor Brown and a former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service general council.

PAUL VIRTUE: The actions that I've hear being discussed are consistent with the court cases and the decisions on prosecutorial discretion.

KEITH: Virtue says the real question isn't legal authority - it's a matter of policy and politics. Doris Meisnner agrees.

DORIS MEISNNER: The issue is much more fraught politically that it is legally.

KEITH: Meisnner is a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and former commissioner of the INS. She says there are some limits on executive action.

MEISNNER: The president cannot give people green cards. The president cannot give people citizenship. But as to temporary programs that protect people from deportation - those are the issues that are in play.

KEITH: Advocates are urging the president to go big, arguing that resistance will be fierce whatever he does. But the president must also consider how any action he takes will play in states where Democrats already face tough reelection odds this fall. Tamara Keith, NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.