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President Obama says he wants to allow the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in deportation efforts, focusing on individuals convicted of serious crimes instead of immigration violators. He might also expand “deferred action,” by which  legal status and work permits are issued temporarily to certain younger adults and to children arriving illegally. Obama would accomplish this via executive order of questionable legality. An advocate of liberalized immigration, Megan McArdle offers a strong critique of this “trial balloon”:

Whatever your opinion on immigration policy, I hope it doesn’t involve supporting giving the president extremely broad powers to simply rewrite any law that he thinks ought to be different. To see why, you need only ask yourself a simple question: Would you like to give this power to a president from the opposing party on a law where the two of you disagree?

Obama gives lip service to the separation of powers, but he blames the current Congress and the GOP for the current impasse. Ron Fournier is strongly sympathetic to that point of view, but he also lays plenty of blame at Obama’s feet:

Obama’s party is partly responsible for this mess, because of the cynical choices made during his first two years in office to punt on reform, in part because the Democrats who ran Congress wanted to be able to portray the GOP as anti-minority in the 2010 elections.

Obama denies culpability, but the record is clear, and almost any Democrat in Washington will concede, privately, that the president broke his promise to make immigration reform a top priority in 2009-10.

Many arguments can be made against full amnesty for illegal immigrants, most of which I find objectionable, but under the constitution, existing laws must be enforced “faithfully” by the president. Immigration reform is extremely important, but it must be thrashed out through the legislative process.