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More Frustration Over President's Refusal to Stop Deportations. By Roger Algase

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The Washington Post reports that there is growing resentment among immigration supporters over President Obama's refusal to suspend, or at least slow down, deportations in view of House of Representative's refusal to take action on comprehensive immigration reform. See Obama's comment on immigration draws anger, frustration September 18.

The Post quotes Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network as follows:

"Unless the president alters course, he risks cementing his legacy as having presided over the most anti-immigrant administration in history...[Obama has an] obligation to lead the national debate through bold action."

The Post then goes on to describe the battle between the administration and immigration supporters over this issue:

"Administration officials said they are employing the concept of 'prosecutorial discretion', which means focusing the limited resources of border control agencies on high risk immigrants who have committed multiple crimes. Greatly expanding the number of deferments would undermine that legal rationale, the officials said.

Advocates scoffed at the reasoning, saying the president has far more leeway because most undocumented immigrants have not violated other laws.

'He does have the power to stop deportations, and we will keep challenging him' said Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, and advocacy group.

She noted that Obama had previously said he could not unilaterally halt deportations for the younger immigrants before he reversed course and did just that during he reelection campaign last year.

Advocates 'will not let President Obama off the hook for his role in the moral crisis our nation faces,', Jimenez said."

There are several comments that could be made on this issue. First, a serious exploration of the extent to which the president does have authority to halt deportations on his own would be in order. A good starting place would be Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in last year's Arizona v. United States case. In that opinion, as mentioned in one of my previous posts, Justice Kennedy emphasized the broad power that the executive branch in particular, not just the federal government in general, has over immigration enforcement policy.

A second comment would be that Presidential deference to Congress in immigration matters is indicated when America's democracy is functioning normally and our Constitutional system of checks and balances is working.

No one reading the headlines today can argue that this is now the case. In order to do so, one would have to show that the majority of Americans support deporting 11 million people, as well as other far right wing goals such as shutting down the entire government in a dispute over health care, destroying the full faith and credit of the US by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, and cutting off food stamps and other programs that help the less affluent, including without doubt many immigrants, to name only a few issues dear to the hearts of the lunatic fringe.

This is not to mention the ultimate insanity of impeaching the president, which the Republican right cannot stop talking about, even though the reason changes from day to day.

What is happening instead is that an extremist right wing Tea Party cabal, using the power of a House Republican majority based on gerrymandered, mainly white districts, a majority which was elected by a minority of the people who actually voted last year, is trying to take over the entire government.

Gutting immigration reform, despite reform's wide support among the public and among so many elements in both parties, is only a piece of a larger picture in which a small group of fanatics is trying to hijack America's democracy to serve its own narrow, ideological objectives.

While the question of how to react to this extraordinary threat to our entire system of government on other issues is beyond the scope of this blog, what would be wrong with using the broad presidential powers over immigration which every serious analyst has to admit already exist, in order to protect the human rights of 11 million immigrants to freedom from the persecution and repression of "enforcement-only" ideology which is supported by only a small group of far right fringe politicians?

Looked at from another perspective, if Mitt Romney were the president today, can there be any doubt that he would be using the full power of the executive branch of the federal government to round up and deport 11 million brown skinned immigrants, or to force them to "self-deport" through inhuman policies of attrition, without exception or mercy?

What is stopping President Obama from using his broad executive power over immigration to accomplish the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans, namely at least granting relief from deportation, (if not formal legalization and eventual citizenship, which may indeed be beyond his powers) for 11 million people?

President Obama argues that he is not a "king". He is right. Queen Elizabeth is a "king", namely a revered figurehead who has no real power.

But the president is not such a king. He is the president of the United States of America. He should act to stop deportations now, if the House Republicans continue to frustrate America's democratic process and cause Congress to fail in its responsibility to respect the will of the great majority of the American people.


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Updated 09-20-2013 at 11:26 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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