President Obama irked Republicans and his past self this week by telling CBS he would bypass Congress and use executive action on illegal immigration, potentially ordering a 10-point amnesty plan as early as next week.
CNN reported that the move would likely include an expansion of deferred deportation for undocumented children to their families, and Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Obama is “nearing a final decision” on what to do. Speaker John Boehner’s (R., Ohio) office called the potential actions “executive amnesty.”
Obama could look back on statements from his first campaign and first term about what he can and can’t do as head of the Executive Branch.
“I take the Constitution very seriously,” he told a Pennsylvania town hall in 2008. “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the Executive Branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.”
In 2011, he told a Univision town hall that there “are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.” To ignore those congressional mandates through executive order, Obama said, would “not conform with my appropriate role as president.”
“I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the [immigration] on my own,” he told the National Council of La Raza that year. “Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.”
Obama seemed frustrated when pushed on the subject of deportations during a roundtable with Latino reporters in September 2011.
“I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true,” he said. “We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce.”
A heckler in 2013 urged him to take executive action on the matter, and Obama actually turned around at the lectern to respond directly.
“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so,” he said. “But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. So the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws, and what I’m proposing is the harder path which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve.”