White House

On Immigration, Republicans Say Obama Is Exercising Too Much Authority, and Not Enough


In the two weeks since President Obama announced that, in the absence of congressional action on immigration reform, he was planning to go it alone on addressing the problem, many conservatives have accused the White House of overstepping its executive authority.

Now some Republicans are making the opposite claim: that the president isn’t doing enough to take advantage of his ability to do something about the flood of children detained at the border from Central American nations without waiting for the law to change. During an appearance on Meet the Press, Michigan Representative Mike Rogers, a Republican who chairs the House intelligence committee, said , “The president has tools in his toolbox that he can do immediately to stop this.”

Specifically, Rogers suggested that Obama—who has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the issue—can simply begin returning the children home, despite a 2008 antitrafficking law that gives children entering the U.S. from countries other than Canada or Mexico legal protections that prohibit speedy deportation. “That’s a wrong interpretation of his authority to get those kids back home safely and humanely,” Rogers said when David Gregory brought up the 2008 law, known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. The White House has indicated it will seek changes to that law.

Rogers isn’t the only lawmaker questioning whether the White House actually needs that law changed to swiftly kick out the kids. In an interview last week, Iowa Republican Representative Steve King slammed Obama over the moves he’s made to date to restrict certain deportations. “He has refused to abide by his oath of office and refused to abide by immigration law,” said King. But he argued that the White House already has all the legal authority it needs to stem the flow of migrants. Obama, he suggested, could just call up the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras “and say, ‘Listen, you’re going to take your kids back. You be there to greet them and take care of them. Otherwise I’ll shut down the foreign aid, and we’ll shut off the trade until we reach an agreement.’ This is not a hard thing for the leader of the free world to do.”

Eidelson is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington.

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