Obama on amnesty: 'I just took an action to change the law'

President Obama went off teleprompter yesterday in Chicago, responding to a heckler, and admitted exactly what conservative critics have charged: that he unilaterally changed law, acting on immigration amnesty.  Eric Bradner of CNN reports:

Obama was in Chicago on Tuesday night to tout an executive order halting deportations for the undocumented parents of children born in the United States. But -- as has been the pattern in recent months -- he couldn't get through the speech without being heckled by protesters who want bolder action.

About 20 minutes into the speech, three women -- one standing four rows behind Obama, holding a sign reading "Stop Deportations Now," and the other two in the crowd -- shouted a series of complaints.

One called Obama's claim that his immigration policies are focused on deporting felons, not families, "a lie." Another said it's "not just Republicans" who have called undocumented immigrants felons.

Obama told the protesters it "doesn't make sense to yell at me right now," given his immigration action last week.

"What you're not paying attention to is, I just took an action to change the law," he said as the crowd applauded.

See for yourself (complete speech here):

As Professor Charles Lipson noted, "what happens when you respond to hecklers; you can step in a deep hole."  He continues:

Here's the problem: the President just admitted his political (and legal) adversaries are correct when they say he overstepped his legal authority. They say, and their law suits will claim, that he has no power to "change the law." His job--and his oath of office--is to faithfully execute the law.

There is a legitimate debate about how far his prosecutorial discretion reaches. Until this recent action, he had said over two dozen times that it does not extend as far as he has now taken it. He has not provided any formal legal analysis from the DOJ for his actions. Nor has he explained any limiting principle for "prosecutorial discretion." He told an interviewer that it wouldn't include a future president's decision to waive tax collections, for example, but he didn't explain the principled reason why his action was legal but a refusal to collect, say, capital-gains taxes would not be.

But no one--NO ONE--says the President can unilaterally "change the law." Yet that is just what Pres. Obama said he has done. I'm sure he will hear that admission very soon in a federal court near you.

President Obama went off teleprompter yesterday in Chicago, responding to a heckler, and admitted exactly what conservative critics have charged: that he unilaterally changed law, acting on immigration amnesty.  Eric Bradner of CNN reports:

Obama was in Chicago on Tuesday night to tout an executive order halting deportations for the undocumented parents of children born in the United States. But -- as has been the pattern in recent months -- he couldn't get through the speech without being heckled by protesters who want bolder action.

About 20 minutes into the speech, three women -- one standing four rows behind Obama, holding a sign reading "Stop Deportations Now," and the other two in the crowd -- shouted a series of complaints.

One called Obama's claim that his immigration policies are focused on deporting felons, not families, "a lie." Another said it's "not just Republicans" who have called undocumented immigrants felons.

Obama told the protesters it "doesn't make sense to yell at me right now," given his immigration action last week.

"What you're not paying attention to is, I just took an action to change the law," he said as the crowd applauded.

See for yourself (complete speech here):

As Professor Charles Lipson noted, "what happens when you respond to hecklers; you can step in a deep hole."  He continues:

Here's the problem: the President just admitted his political (and legal) adversaries are correct when they say he overstepped his legal authority. They say, and their law suits will claim, that he has no power to "change the law." His job--and his oath of office--is to faithfully execute the law.

There is a legitimate debate about how far his prosecutorial discretion reaches. Until this recent action, he had said over two dozen times that it does not extend as far as he has now taken it. He has not provided any formal legal analysis from the DOJ for his actions. Nor has he explained any limiting principle for "prosecutorial discretion." He told an interviewer that it wouldn't include a future president's decision to waive tax collections, for example, but he didn't explain the principled reason why his action was legal but a refusal to collect, say, capital-gains taxes would not be.

But no one--NO ONE--says the President can unilaterally "change the law." Yet that is just what Pres. Obama said he has done. I'm sure he will hear that admission very soon in a federal court near you.