Is President Obama Planning Unilateral Action on Amnesty?

In the spring of 2013, the Senate passed the “Gang of 8” amnesty bill (S. 744), which created a framework to legalize the estimated 11 million people currently living in the country unlawfully. House Republicans wisely recognized the bill for what it was—a comprehensive amnesty package—and refused to act on it. In spite of congressional inaction, President Obama has attempted a variety of unilateral maneuvers to ignore current immigration laws.

Is President Obama planning unilateral action on amnesty?

In June 2012, the Obama Administration authored a memorandum, issued by then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, directing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to practice “prosecutorial discretion” towards unlawful minors. This process, sterilized by the administration’s labeling it Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), is one of the most flagrant instances of the President using government resources—in this case, law enforcement—to carry out a political agenda.

Press reports indicate the President may attempt to expand DACA after the midterm elections. By providing “legal protections” and work permits to a range of undocumented residents, this action could result in as many as 5 million new unlawful immigrants (roughly 50% of current illegal population) being included under the DACA umbrella.

DACA acted as a beacon of amnesty for an estimated 1.7 million unlawful minors. With these minors in perpetual limbo, the President and his bipartisan congressional coalition went in search of a long-term solution. Though avoiding prosecution or removal is tantamount to amnesty, it is not the official legalization the Left is seeking. The ENLIST Act was the logical next step. This bill would permit unlawful immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors a backdoor promise of citizenship in exchange for military service. In April 2014, Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) launched a campaign in the House to attach ENLIST to the National Defense Authorization Act. The grassroots megaphone demanded accountability, however, and enough pressure was applied to bring down the bill.

At the beginning of October, the administration issued yet another memorandum that will allow for a limited number of children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to apply for refugee status if they have relatives legally residing in the U.S. This policy is problematic in that it requires officials to justify the refugee status by loosening criteria. Although the change may be limited in scope, there is concern the administration would then use this as justification to offer asylum to thousands of children already here illegally (or on the border), amounting to a massive loophole for another administrative amnesty deal.

There is no such thing as a unilateral mechanism for altering U.S. law. President Obama continues to show his disregard for the Constitution by ignoring the separation of powers and administering policies as he sees fit. This practice is unfair to the citizens he purports to represent, as well as to those millions abroad who have applied for legal status the proper way and are waiting their turn.

The United States has a system of legal immigration in place which admits roughly 1 million people each year. Any change to this system that is not in keeping with the parameters of democratic process is nothing more than another entry in the pattern of unfairness endemic to Washington, DC.

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