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Legal Memo Shows Obama’s Hands Aren’t Tied on Immigration; He Has Power To Protect DREAMers

by Mahwish Khan on 05/02/2011 at 2:25pm

barack obamaThere’s been growing pressure on President Obama to use his executive powers to provide relief to undocumented immigrants, particularly DREAM students. The White House maintains that the President does not have the power to take those actions, but he really does. On Friday, several top lawyers in the immigration advocacy movement provided the legal framework through which the President could protect DREAMers and others. The document is below. The press release from the American Immigration Council provides context: 

President Obama’s insistence that his “hands are tied” by Congressional inaction on immigration has raised questions about how much executive power the President has when it comes to immigration. To this end, top immigration law experts, including former counsels to the agencies that manage immigration, have drafted a legal memo outlining the scope of executive branch authority and examples of its use in the immigration context.

Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council, noted upon release of the memo:

“Ultimately, responsibility for failing to reform our dysfunctional immigration system rests on Congress. However, it is rarely the case that a President‘s hands are tied by existing law—and where the President disagrees with current law, his or her policy choices regarding the implementation of that law take on even greater importance.  In the context of immigration, the President and his cabinet have a wide range of choices available that can ameliorate some of the worst excesses of current law.  The legal memo attempts to give a short review of these options and demonstrates how wide the ranges of choices really are.

No matter how definitive or rigid a law may appear, the exercise of executive branch authority is critical to the ultimate implementation of the law.  The opportunity to infuse executive branch actions with a generous spirit is always within a president’s reach.  The choice on immigration today is whether the President and his cabinet will act boldly to use their authority to improve the lives of millions, or will allow the current enforcement-only mindset to continue unabated.  Such choices will have an impact for years to come, and require thoughtful and diligent attention.”

Here’s the document:




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