He’s being asked here specifically about halting deportations for the parents of DREAMers, not about a wider legalization of all illegals of the sort that immigration reform fans keep pestering him about. And yes, I realize that he’s dismissed the idea of unilateral executive action before and then gone and done it anyway; strictly speaking, nothing he says here is novel or particularly credible. The timing of it is significant, though. The last time he was asked about executive amnesty, the prospects that Congress would pass something were reasonably good. He could afford to take the uncharacteristically modest “no, it wouldn’t be right for me to act” line, if only because a bold proclamation of authority could have alienated Republicans and screwed up Schumer’s efforts to shepherd something through. Now, though, there’s less holding him back. Immigration reform seems to have stalled in the House — however temporarily. If he wants to spur them into passing something that they can live with, threatening to do amnesty himself (as Marco Rubio and Raul Labrador keep warning about) is one way to do it. Instead, likely sensing that the political climate just isn’t right to try something like this, he sounds as reluctant as ever. Actual quote: “My job in the executive branch is supposed to be to carry out the laws that are passed.” Who is this guy and what has he done with Barack Obama?

Note, by the way, that his explanation for why it was fine to grant DREAMers de facto amnesty by executive order but not the rest of the population is completely half-assed. There’s no legal reasoning to it at all; he’s reduced to arguing simply that DREAMers are sympathetic and therefore it’s kinda sorta okay for him to do them a favor. Which, contra the above, is very characteristic: Obama’s decision not to enforce Obama’s employer mandate also came conveniently without any attempt at a legal justification. His executive power grabs are “honest” ones in the sense that he makes no pretense anymore of hiding how arbitrary they are. The president has authority to ignore the mandate because … the mandate would cause businesses problems, and he has authority to stop deporting DREAMers because … they’re really nice and hopeful, but beyond that his job in the executive branch is to carry out the laws that are passed. Only a wingnut could fail to see the logic in that.