Obama to immigration groups: I'll press my executive power to the limit to spare millions from deportation

Just making sure that this Major Garrett scoop from late last week doesn’t get lost in the holiday shuffle. Takeaway: Obama’s going big on executive amnesty.

Obama told the groups what they had been dying to hear—that he was going to condemn House Republicans for inaction and set the most expansive legal course permissible to beef up border security, slow deportations of noncriminal aliens, and provide legal status to millions of undocumented workers—all by himself…

Obama made it clear he would press his executive powers to the limit. He gave quiet credence to recommendations from La Raza and other immigration groups that between 5 million to 6 million adult illegal immigrants could be spared deportation under a similar form of deferred adjudication he ordered for the so-called Dreamers in June 2012.

That executive action essentially lifted the threat of prosecution and deportation for about 670,000 undocumented residents—those older than 15 and younger than 31 who had been brought to America before their 16th birthday.

Obama has now ordered the Homeland Security and Justice departments to find executive authorities that could enlarge that non-prosecutorial umbrella by a factor of 10.

The only surprise is the timing. Garrett isn’t firm on it but I get the sense that O’s thinking of making a move sooner rather than later, which would be quite a curveball ahead of the midterms. (Amnesty champion Frank Sharry, who attended the meeting with Obama, said of the timeline “He didn’t seem to give a sh*t.”) The whole point of giving House Republicans time to pass a bill this year, I thought, was so that Democrats wouldn’t have to risk a nasty backlash in November by doing something bold on amnesty by themselves. Maybe the timing is negotiable: If, say, the new ObamaCare rates this fall are bad and the Dems are suddenly staring at a rout, O might decide at that point that he’s got nothing to lose by upending the table politically with an order that effectively amnestizes five million people. If, on the other hand, we get a few more solid jobs reports, he’ll be more inclined to go slow and postpone amnesty until next year. The true target here is 2016, remember, a point that White House officials themselves made to Garrett. The presidency will be in play, Democrats will be on offense in Senate battlegrounds, and Latino turnout will be up. No sense wasting an amnesty mega-pander now if it can be saved for later, especially if Obama still thinks there’s a chance Congress might pass something next year.

I can’t quote more from Garrett but make sure to read down further in the piece for details about Obama — allegedly — warning these same amnesty groups that he needs to stop this recent border surge by young illegals. Money line: “Sometimes, there is an inherent injustice in where you are born, and no president can solve that, Obama said.” That’s an … interesting attitude from a guy who’s now deporting about one-fifth the number of illegals under 18 that Bush was deporting in 2008. Maybe it’s a mitigation strategy. If he moves boldly on executive amnesty this fall, he’ll need something he can point to as evidence that he cares about border security when Republicans start screaming at him. By being “tough” on kids who are crossing into the U.S. now, he gains an enforcement credential he can tout. In other words, when the GOP accuses him of having unilaterally enacted amnesty, he’s going to turn around and claim that what he’s really done is enact comprehensive immigration reform instead — amnesty for illegals who are already here, sure, but also more security at the border to keep new illegals from entering. That position is easier to sell politically, especially when you’re pitching it to a public that seems not to care which branch does what anymore so long as it’s happy with the results.

The added benefit to Dems from all this, of course, will be watching Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and the rest of the 2016 GOP gang squirm when they’re asked whether they’ll rescind Obama’s executive order if they’re elected president in 2017. The boilerplate response, I assume, will be to dodge the question and say that what they really want to do is replace the order with legislation, which is how immigration reform should have been handled. And what if Congress can’t get together on a legislative deal? What would President Rubio or President Paul or President Christie do then about Obama’s order? That’s the answer I’m eager to hear. Exit question via Conn Carroll: How exactly is Obama being “tough” on young illegals who’ve entered the U.S. this year? Granted, federal law says that those kids can’t be summarily deported but must be processed, released, and given a date for a hearing (which many won’t show up to), but Obama doesn’t give a wet fart about federal law, especially when it comes to immigration. If he wants to show how tough he is and further entrench the principle that the president can do pretty much whatever he wants, why not ignore the law and start busing them back to Mexico anyway?

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