The Washington Post editorial board, a generally reliably liberal voice, strongly warned President Barack Obama against taking executive action on immigration, saying congressional paralysis doesn't mean he can "tear up the Constitution."
President Barack Obama offers a toast at a dinner for the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, on the South Lawn of the White House,Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The Post's editorial said it's up to the legislative branch to fix the matter of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. southern border, as reports have surfaced that Obama is prepared to take executive action regarding the border while Congress is on recess.
“Obstinate, hopelessly partisan and incapable of problem-solving, Congress is a mess,” the Post said. “But that doesn’t grant the president license to tear up the Constitution.”
The editorial went on to point out that Obama himself said last fall that he couldn't legally take executive action.
“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws,” Obama said at the time.
The Post noted that “some of the same Democrats and pro-immigrant advocates urging" Obama to take action "would be outraged if a Republican president took a similarly selective approach to enforcing the laws."
Obama has asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review the options the administration can take on immigration without congressional authorization.
“Without additional resources and help from Congress, we’re just not going to have the resources we need to fully solve the problem. That means while they’re out on vacation, I’m going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge, with or without Congress," Obama said last week.
Asked Monday whether Obama would consider a broad executive action that could result in temporary work permits for as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president is "no longer willing to stand idly by."
"He has directed his secretary of homeland security and his attorney general to consider what kinds of options are available to the president in the context of the current law to try to mitigate some of the problems that are caused by a broken immigration system.”
Pressed whether granting work permits would be an “executive fiat,” Earnest called for waiting for the review.
“I don’t want to talk about specific proposals because, again, the review about what the president is able to do is still ongoing. So it remains an open question whether these proposals that are floated by a wide variety of advocates on this issue is something that falls within the president’s authority to act on," Earnest said.
Talk of executive action on immigration comes as the Republican-controlled House is suing Obama for what it calls failing to execute the law and executive overreach pertaining to Obamacare.
The Post editorial said there are things that the president can do administratively, such as ensuring the migrant children get due process rights and redeploying immigration enforcement from the interior to the border.
But it went on to say Obama is thinking primarily about helping Democrats.
“Mr. Obama now seems to be jettisoning that stance in the name of rallying his political base,” the newspaper said. “He is considering extending temporary protection from deportation to millions of illegal immigrants, including the parents of U.S.-born children and others who have lived in the United States for years. Conceivably, this would give Democrats a political boost in 2016. Just as conceivably, it would trigger a constitutional showdown with congressional Republicans, who could make a cogent argument that Mr. Obama had overstepped his authority.”
Follow Fred Lucas (@FredVLucas3) on Twitter