It was the usual “get to the back of the line, pay your dues, get right with the law, failed CIR is the Republicans’ fault” ho hum from the White House today when Vice President Joe Biden and Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz sat down for a live chat today hosted by Bing and Skype.
Biden was his chatty uncle self and Muñoz played the policy wonk straight man, and the two fielded questions on E-Verify, border enforcement, green cards, and undocumented youth. But two questions in particular highlighted the current deportation debate. With immigration reform dead in Congress, some in the immigrant rights community are calling on President Obama to use his executive authority to stop deporting those who are undocumented. They include undocumented immigrants and supporters who’ve been using their bodies to block exits for deportation vehicles at ICE detention centers around the country.
A Twitter user asked about this very issue, and Muñoz responded, “The president doesn’t have the authority to suspend deportations.” She took a detour to talk about deferred action, the Obama administration’s move to block the deportations of a select class of undocumented youth, then returned to the real question she knew watchers were interested in. “I will say what some people want to know is whether or not we can use that authority more broadly, and the answer to that is: … You can’t just use enforcement authority to fix this problem. The paythway to fix this is going straight through Congress.”
Biden chimed in: “He doesn’t have the authority to do that. What I get and what [Muñoz] gets all the time is, ‘Since the system is broken and Congress won’t fix it, why don’t you suspend everything. The president does not have the authority to do that.”
Advocates rebut the White House’s remarks by citing congressional documents which reiterate the President’s authority to stop deportations, and the words of former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau who wrote in a New York Times op-ed last week, “President Obama seriously understates his ability to mitigate the effect of immigration law while he confronts Republican intransigence in the House.”