Obama Vows To Flex Executive Authority On Immigration Policy

Jun 30, 2014
Originally published on June 30, 2014 7:01 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR news, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. President Obama came out to the White House Rose Garden today to plead, once again, for Congress to act on the bipartisan immigration bill the Senate passed a year ago. Since then, it's been stalled in the House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If House Republicans are really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills. Pass a bill. Solve a problem.

SIEGEL: The president added that Speaker of the House John Boehner had told him that a vote on ant immigration legislation would not happen until after the November elections. As a consequence, the president said that he would act on his own using his executive authority to change the nation's immigration policy, where he could. NPR's Mara Liasson was in the Rose Garden this afternoon and joins us now. Hi.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi Robert.

SIEGEL: What kind of action is the president talking about?

LIASSON: Well, in the short term, he's talking about doing something to deal with the thousands of children, who've massed at the southwestern border, trying to get in illegally. He's going to move some resources from the interior of the country to the border. He's going to work the countries where these kids come from to try to stop the flow. In the longer term - the medium term - he's is asked his attorney general and Homeland Security secretary to give him some ideas about what he can do on his own. He can't make comprehensive of immigration reform happen by executive action. But if he chose to, he could expand the Dream Act, which allows, you know, children brought here legally to get on a pathway to citizenship if they are in college with military. He could perhaps expand that to include their families. But I think today really was a turning point. He was very frustrated. He said he'd given the Republican in the House a year. He's now been told by the Speaker, it isn't going to happen this year. And the President says, now I'm going to move forward on my own because the loss of Eric Cantor to an anti-amnesty Tea Party candidate, the flood of kids at the border - those two things really did put an end to any hopes for immigration reform from Congress this year.

SIEGEL: As you said though, President Obama said he spoke with the heads of both the Justice Department and Homeland Security. And one thing he asked them to do is to recommend actions they think will lead to a more secure border. Do we have a sense of the timeline or the scope of those recommendations?

LIASSON: He says he wants these recommendations by the end of the summer. We know that he is going to be asking Congress for an emergency appropriation of about $2 billion to address the thousands of kids who are on the border. But we're going to find more - exactly more about what he wants to do in the coming weeks.

SIEGEL: Seems like a tough moment for Mr. Obama to be asserting this kind of prerogative because just last week the Supreme Court ruled that he had overstepped his constitutional authority in making high-level recess appointments.

LIASSON: That's true. And as the president said today, executive action is never as good as legislative action. It's always preferable. He wanted an immigration bill. He wants a legacy. If he uses executive action, it's not permanent. And also, this has become an issue in the midterm elections. The Republicans call him the imperial presidency, which is - imperial president, which is a little ironic since he's using executive action out of weakness, not strength. But the interesting thing is just as he's getting all these defeats on contraception or on immigration, both of those issues might be, over the long term, winners for the Democrats. It's bad for Republicans to be seen against contraception - bad for Republicans to be seen against immigration reform.

SIEGEL: And as for the president's disappointment with the Speaker, Boehner, that he expressed, Boehner's actually suing him - claiming he's exceeding constitutional authority.

LIASSON: Yes, there's always tension between Congress and the Executive. But in this case, the overreaching of the president, President Obama himself, are big issues in the midterm campaign. This is a theme for Republicans. It's been a very good couple of weeks for them. The long term might be a little different.

SIEGEL: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.