Congressional Democrats Back Obama on Immigration Reform

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With the election safely over, congressional Democrats have regained their courage on immigration and are now urging President Obama to go ahead with an executive action on immigration reform. Here’s an excerpt from a letter that several Democratic leaders in the Senate sent today:

The principle behind most of what Obama plans to do falls under the category of “prosecutorial discretion,” which means he can decide where best to use the government’s limited law enforcement resources. Just like previous presidents, he can decide that resources should be directed in a certain way, which effectively means that certain immigrants will be free to stay in the country simply because no one will be targeting them for deportation.

We can argue about just how far presidents should be allowed to go down this road, but basically it’s something with a fair amount of precedent. This is clearly the focus of the letter from Senate Democrats, and although I’m not a lawyer, I’m pretty confident that the Justice Department will produce an adequate legal defense of Obama’s constitutional authority in this area.

But what’s probably most important goes unsaid—or perhaps merely implied—in the Senate letter: if you qualify for “deferred action,” you can also get a work permit and a Social Security number. I don’t quite understand the legal authority for this, but it’s part of the mini-DREAM executive action Obama signed in 2012, so apparently it’s on firm legal ground.

In any case, it now looks like Obama is not just firmly committed to this, but has the public support of key congressional Democrats as well. It’s coming whether Republicans like it or not.

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