Obama Evades the Treaty Process to Sign On to the Paris Climate Accord
In December 2015, President Obama made the U.S. a part of the Paris Climate Accord. By so doing, he bypassed the Treaty provision of the U.S. Constitution, and unilaterally usurped the power of the Senate. As the Washington Times has explained:
The mainstream media has tortured the truth in reporting on President Donald Trump’s renunciation of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. It’s been called a treaty, but it was nothing of the sort. Instead, it was a unilateral act by President Obama that had no basis in the U.S. Constitution.
That’s not to say that the agreement wasn’t a treaty, and therefore something that required Senate ratification by a two-thirds majority, under the Constitution’s Treaty Clause (Art. I, § 2, cl. 2). That’s how the Framers of the Constitution understood the Clause. Here’s Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 75:
“The power of making treaties…relates neither to the execution of the subsisting laws, nor to the enaction of new ones; and still less to an exertion of the common strength. Its objects are CONTRACTS with foreign nations, which have the force of law, but derive it from the obligations of good faith. They are not rules prescribed by the sovereign to the subject, but agreements between sovereign and sovereign.”
The Paris agreement is also a treaty as defined by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, i.e., “an international agreement concluded between [two or more] States in written form and governed by international law….”
So why does Senate confirmation matter? The Framers wisely believed that it would be unsafe to give one man alone the power to bind the country through a treaty. Again, here’s Hamilton in Federalist 75:
“[A] man raised from the station of a private citizen to the rank of chief magistrate, possessed of a moderate or slender fortune, and looking forward to a period not very remote when he may probably be obliged to return to the station from which he was taken, might sometimes be under temptations to sacrifice his duty to his interest, which it would require superlative virtue to withstand. An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents. The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States.”
Of course, presidents don’t like going to the Senate for approval of their pet projects. Back in 1998 Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Treaty on global warming without submitting it to the Senate for ratification. He knew that, if he did so, the treaty would be DOA....
Mr. Obama’s signing of the Paris Climate Accord had no more constitutional standing than the currency of the Confederate States of America...
The Paris Agreement, moreover, is a hoax. It is to global warming what the Kellogg-Briand Pact was to international peace: sound and fury signifying nothing. The Agreement doesn’t create a means to verify that signatory nations are accurately reporting greenhouse gas emissions or enforcing limitations. China is in a pollution league by itself accounting for 30 percent of worldwide emissions. The United States is a distant second at 15 percent. While the mainstream media swoons over China’s professed commitment to renewable energy, it under-reports that air pollution masks in Beijing are necessary to survive, and that more than 1 million Chinese die annually from contaminated air.
Said Obama: "The Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis. It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way." "I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world," Obama added, calling the agreement "the best chance we have to save the one planet that we've got."
Obama Had No Intention of Submitting the Nuclear Treaty with Iran to the Senate for Approval
There was considerable opposition in Congress to the deal that Obama was negotiating with Iran, as evidenced by (a) the March 2015, letter to Obama where 367 members of the U.S. House of Representatives expressed great concern about the ongoing negotiations; and (b) the March 2015 open letter to Iranian leaders that 47 Republican senators posted on the Internet, pointing out that if Iran reached a nuclear agreement with President Obama that was not approved by the Senate , it would not be binding on the next U.S. President.
The Senate is authorized by the U.S. Constitution to play a major role in the negotiation and ratification of treaties with foreign countries. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution says: “The President ... shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
But Obama, from the very start of his negotiations with Iran, completely froze the Senate out of the process. He did this by claiming that his deal with Iran was not a treaty but a “sole executive agreement” that did not require Congressional approval. As journalist Conn Carroll notes: “Sole executive agreements have been used by presidents since the early 1800s, but the exact scope of this power has long been in question. The Supreme Court has allowed many such agreements to stand..., but the Court has always required at least some evidence that Congress at least acquiesced to those policies.... [N]ew arms deals have almost always been submitted to the Senate for approval.... Obama's nuclear arms deal with Iran would be an unprecedented expansion of this sole executive agreement power.”
On April 16, 2015, Obama continued to lay the rhetorical groundwork for such a deal by emphasizing that “this is not a formal treaty that is being envisioned,” but rather a “political agreement” between Iran and the leaders of the P5+1 countries.
The Senate Surrendered Its Constitutional Treaty Clause Power Regarding the Iran Nuclear Deal
In April 2015, Senate Democrats led by Sen. Ben Cardin, in union with Senate Republicans led by Sen. Bob Corker, passed the Corker-Cardin bill in which the majority-Republican Senate meekly surrendered its constitutionally authorized power to ratify a treaty. The Treaty Clause of the Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate to affirmatively approve of any treaty in order for it to take effect; in this case, then, two-thirds of the Senate would have had to approve the deal with Iran in order for the sanctions against Iran to be lifted. But instead, because of the Corker-Cardin bill, Obama was free to negotiate any deal he wanted, and Congress would simply vote up or down on it. Moreover, Congress would now need to muster two-thirds of its members to oppose the deal in both its upper and lower chambers – 67 votes in the Senate and 290 in the House. Without those two-thirds supermajorities, Congress would be unable to override an Obama veto of Congress's rejection of the deal. The Corker-Cardin bill further stipulated that Congress would have 60 days to put together those two-thirds supermajorities in opposition to the deal -- but that would clearly be impossible, given the Democrats' largely uniform support for Obama administration policies.
Obama Sought to Freeze Congress out of the Iran Deal by Going Directly to the UN As Quickly As Possible
"Now, Obama is violating even the pathetic terms of the Corker-Cardin bill by preventing Congress from even mustering the two-thirds opposition to the deal.... Foreign Policy magazine is reporting that UN Ambassador Samantha Power plans to submit a 14-page draft resolution to the UN Security Council as early as next week for approval of the Iran deal.
"You might be thinking, what happened to the 60-day period of congressional review, pursuant to the Corker Cardin bill, when Obama was to be restricted from lifting sanctions? Can’t Congress at least be afforded the 60 days to attempt to muster the 67 votes needed to disapprove of the deal?
"No chance. Obama is reneging on the very essence of the agreement and the bill he signed into law in May – an agreement that to begin with, violates the Senate’s treaty powers. By taking this deal straight to the Security Council for approval, although the implementation of the deal will not take effect until later this year, Congress would be in violation of international law by rejecting this treaty – if they miraculously mustered the votes in September.
"Secretary of State John Kerry blatantly and brazenly admitted that they have double-crossed Congress: 'If Congress were to veto the deal, Congress — the United States of America — would be in noncompliance with this agreement and contrary to all of the other countries in the world. I don’t think that’s going to happen.'"
On July 20, 2015, President Obama carried through his end-run around Congress by bringing the Iran nuclear deal to the United Nations Security Council for a vote, long before the completion of the 60-day period of congressional review called for in the Corker-Cardin bill. Obama did this even though Republicans and Democrats alike had been frantically iploring him to hold off on the vote. In that vote, the UN Security Council voted 15-0 to endorse the P5+1 deal and therefore to start rolling back sanctions against Iran.
Changing Deportation Policy
In August 2011, President Obama issued an executive order to prevent potentially thousands of cases in federal immigration court from moving forward if they did not involve criminals or people with flagrant immigration violations. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the agency would launch a case-by-case review of 300,000 cases pending in immigration courts across the nation to focus on the federal government’s top priority, detaining and deporting criminals and serious violators of immigration law. Immigrants classified as low-priority cases would be eligible to receive a stay of deportation and the chance to apply for a work permit.
Obama Says He Will No Longer Deport Illegal Minors
In June 2012 President Obama, frustrated that Congress had thus far failed to pass the DREAM Act, issued an executive order that mimicked some of the Act's provisions. Most notably, the order stated that the administration would grant a two-year deferral from deportation to young illegal immigrants who had entered the United States as minors if they: (a) posed no criminal or security threat; (b) were successful students; or (c) were serving in the military. Obama's order also allowed those meeting these requirements to apply for work permits, provided they could demonstrate that they had been living in the United States continuously for at least five years.
Stating that children of illegal immigrants "study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, befriend our kids, pledge allegiance to our flag," Obama said, "it makes no sense to expel talented young people who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans."
The Obama administration estimated that the policy change would affect some 800,000 people.
DACA Completely Contradicts Obama's Lip Service to Constitutional Limitations
The Obama Administration's implementation of DACA was wholly contradictory to what the President had said at a Univision town hall on March 28, 2011:
"With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.... Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President".
The implementation of DACA was also contradictory to what Obama would say to a group of Latino journalists on September 28, 2011:
"I just have to continue to say, this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. 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. And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating [sic] the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true.... [W]e live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it.... We have to recognize how the system works, and then apply pressure to those places where votes can be gotten and, ultimately, we can get this thing solved. And nobody will be a stronger advocate for making that happen than me."
And implementation of DACA was likewise contradictory to what Obama would say on November 25, 2013: “If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing them through Congress, I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. That's part of our tradition.”
January 19, 2012: Obama Uses Executive Order to Eliminate Statutory Interview Requirement for Certain Countries
Obama issued an executive order attempting to nullify a longstanding statutory requirement that those applying for a nonimmigrant visa submit to an in-person interview with a consular officer. The order waived these requirements for travelers from China and Brazil, increasing the potential for visa overstays and risking national security and law enforcement threats.
Obama Considers Granting Work Authorization to Millions of Illegals
On July 24, 2014, Time.com reported: "When President Obama issues executive orders on immigration in coming weeks, pro-reform activists are expecting something dramatic: temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for perhaps several million undocumented immigrants."
It was also being reported extensively that Obama's executive actions would probably include an expansion of his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, so as to encompass an additional 5 to 6 million adult illegal immigrants.
Obama's executive action was expected to take place by “the end of summer.”
Obama's Planned Executive Action Explicitly Contradicts Statements He Had Previously Made Regarding His Lack of Constitutional Authority to Take Such Action, As Well As Statements He Would Subsequently Make:
* On March 31, 2008, Obama said: “I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with [the president] 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.”
* On May 19, 2008, Obama said: “We’ve got a government designed by the Founders so that there’d be checks and balances. You don’t want a president who’s too powerful or a Congress that’s too powerful or a court that’s too powerful. Everybody’s got their own role. Congress’s job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it or he can sign it. … I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We're not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end-run around Congress.”
* On May 5, 2010, Obama said: “Comprehensive reform, that's how we're going to solve this problem. … Anybody who tells you it's going to be easy or that I can wave a magic wand and make it happen hasn't been paying attention to how this town works.”
* On July 1, 2010, Obama said: “[T]here are those in the immigrants’ rights community who have argued passionately that we should simply provide those who are [here] illegally with legal status, or at least ignore the laws on the books and put an end to deportation until we have better laws. ... I believe such an indiscriminate approach would be both unwise and unfair. It would suggest to those thinking about coming here illegally that there will be no repercussions for such a decision. And this could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration. And it would also ignore the millions of people around the world who are waiting in line to come here legally. Ultimately, our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable.”
* On October 14, 2010, Obama said, "I can't simply ignore laws that are out there. I've got to work to make sure that they are changed."
* On October 25, 2010, Obama said: “I am president, I am not king. I can't do these things just by myself. We have a system of government that requires the Congress to work with the Executive Branch to make it happen. I'm committed to making it happen, but I've got to have some partners to do it. … The main thing we have to do to stop deportations is to change the laws. … [T]he most important thing that we can do is to change the law because the way the system works – again, I just want to repeat, I'm president, I'm not king. If Congress has laws on the books that says that people who are here who are not documented have to be deported, then I can exercise some flexibility in terms of where we deploy our resources, to focus on people who are really causing problems as a opposed to families who are just trying to work and support themselves. But there's a limit to the discretion that I can show because I am obliged to execute the law. That's what the Executive Branch means. I can't just make the laws up by myself. So the most important thing that we can do is focus on changing the underlying laws.”
* During a March 28, 2011 Univision Town Hall at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, DC, President Obama said:
“Well, first of all, temporary protective status historically has been used for special circumstances where you have immigrants to this country who are fleeing persecution in their countries, or there is some emergency situation in their native land that required them to come to the United States. So it would not be appropriate to use that just for a particular group that came here primarily, for example, because they were looking for economic opportunity.
"With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed — and I know that everybody here at Bell is studying hard, so you know that we’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws.
"There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President.“
* On April 20, 2011, Obama said: “I can't solve this problem by myself. … [W]e're going to have to have bipartisan support in order to make it happen. … I can't do it by myself. We're going to have to change the laws in Congress, but I'm confident we can make it happen.”
* On April 29, 2011, Obama said: “I know some here wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how democracy works. See, democracy is hard. But it’s right. Changing our laws means doing the hard work of changing minds and changing votes, one by one.”
* On May 10, 2011, Obama said: “Sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how a democracy works. What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine, comprehensive reform. That is the ultimate solution to this problem. That's what I’m committed to doing.”
* At the National Council of La Raza's annual meeting in Washington, DC on July 25, 2011, Obama said:
“I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books, but that doesn't mean I don't know very well the real pain and heartbreak that deportations cause. I share your concerns and I understand them. And I promise you, we are responding to your concerns and working every day to make sure we are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane and best possible way. Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own -- and believe me, right now, dealing with Congress. Believe me -- 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 -- that's not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written.”
* During a September 28, 2011 “Open for Questions” roundtable discussion of issues important to Hispanics, Obama again stated that he could not act on immigration unilaterally: “So what we’ve tried to do is within the constraints of the laws on the books, we’ve tried to be as fair, humane, just as we can, recognizing, though, that the laws themselves need to be changed. … The most important thing for your viewers and listeners and readers to understand is that in order to change our laws, we’ve got to get it through the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by Republicans, and we’ve got to get 60 votes in the Senate. … Administratively, we can't ignore the law. … I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. 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. And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true. … We live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it. And if all the attention is focused away from the legislative process, then that is going to lead to a constant dead-end. We have to recognize how the system works, and then apply pressure to those places where votes can be gotten and, ultimately, we can get this thing solved.”
* In September 2012, Obama said: “Now, what I’ve always said is, as the head of the executive branch, there’s a limit to what I can do. Part of the reason that deportations went up was Congress put a whole lot of money into it, and when you have a lot of resources and a lot more agents involved, then there are going to be higher numbers. What we’ve said is, let’s make sure that you’re not misdirecting those resources. But we’re still going to, ultimately, have to change the laws in order to avoid some of the heartbreaking stories that you see coming up occasionally. And that’s why this continues to be a top priority of mine. … And we will continue to make sure that how we enforce is done as fairly and justly as possible. But until we have a law in place that provides a pathway for legalization and/or citizenship for the folks in question, we’re going to continue to be bound by the law. … And so part of the challenge as President is constantly saying, ‘what authorities do I have?’”
* On October 16, 2012, Obama said: “We are a nation of immigrants. … But we're also a nation of laws. So what I've said is, we need to fix a broken immigration system. And I've done everything that I can on my own[.]”
* On January 30, 2013, Obama said: “I'm not a king. I am the head of the executive branch of government. I'm required to follow the law. And that's what we've done. But what I've also said is, let's make sure that we're applying the law in a way that takes into account people's humanity. That's the reason that we moved forward on deferred action. Within the confines of the law we said, we have some discretion in terms of how we apply this law.”
* Also on January 30, 2013, Obama said: “I’m not a king. You know, my job as the head of the executive branch ultimately is to carry out the law. And, you know, when it comes to enforcement of our immigration laws, we’ve got some discretion. We can prioritize what we do. But we can’t simply ignore the law. When it comes to the dreamers, we were able to identify that group and say, ‘These folks are generally not a risk. They’re not involved in crime. … And so let’s prioritize our enforcement resources.’ But to sort through all the possible cases of everybody who might have a sympathetic story to tell is very difficult to do. This is why we need comprehensive immigration reform. To make sure that once and for all, in a way that is, you know, ratified by Congress, we can say that there is a pathway to citizenship for people who are staying out of trouble, who are trying to do the right thing, who’ve put down roots here. … My job is to carry out the law. And so Congress gives us a whole bunch of resources. They give us an order that we’ve got to go out there and enforce the laws that are on the books. … If this was an issue that I could do unilaterally I would have done it a long time ago. … The way our system works is Congress has to pass legislation. I then get an opportunity to sign it and implement it.”
During a Google Hangout on February 14, 2013, an activist asked Obama whether he could unilaterally do more to keep the families of illegal immigrants from being “broken apart.” The president replied, “This is something that I have struggled with throughout my presidency. The problem is, is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed. And Congress right now has not changed what I consider to be a broken immigration system. And what that means is that we have certain obligations to enforce the laws that are in place even if we think that in many cases the results may be tragic.”
* On July 16, 2013, Obama said: “I think that it is very important for us to recognize that the way to solve this problem has to be legislative. I can do some things and have done some things that make a difference in the lives of people by determining how our enforcement should focus. … And we’ve been able to provide help through deferred action for young people …. But this is a problem that needs to be fixed legislatively.”
* In a Telemundo interview on September 17, 2013, Obama said he was proud of having protected the so-called “Dreamers” — people who came to the United States illegally as minor children — from deportation. But he added that he could not legally do the same for other groups of immigrants. “If we start broadening that, then essentially I’ll be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally,” the president stated. “So that’s not an option.”
* During an Obama speech in San Francisco on November 25, 2013, a heckler yelled to the president that he "has the power to stop deportation." An irritated Obama retorted that he did not have that authority because: "We're also a nation of laws. That's part of our tradition. And so, the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws," Obama said, adding: "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. But it won't be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done."
* On March 6, 2014, Obama said: “I am the Champion-in-Chief of comprehensive immigration reform. But what I’ve said in the past remains true, which is until Congress passes a new law, then I am constrained in terms of what I am able to do. What I’ve done is to use my prosecutorial discretion, because you can’t enforce the laws across the board for 11 or 12 million people, there aren’t the resources there. What we’ve said is focus on folks who are engaged in criminal activity, focus on people who are engaged in gang activity. Do not focus on young people, who we’re calling DREAMers …. That already stretched my administrative capacity very far. But I was confident that that was the right thing to do. But at a certain point the reason that these deportations are taking place is, Congress said, ‘you have to enforce these laws.’ They fund the hiring of officials at the department that’s charged with enforcing. And I cannot ignore those laws any more than I could ignore, you know, any of the other laws that are on the books. That’s why it’s so important for us to get comprehensive immigration reform done this year.”
* On August 6, 2014, Obama said: “I think that I never have a green light [to push the limits of executive power]. I’m bound by the Constitution; I’m bound by separation of powers. There are some things we can’t do. Congress has the power of the purse, for example. … Congress has to pass a budget and authorize spending. So I don’t have a green light. … My preference in all these instances is to work with Congress, because not only can Congress do more, but it’s going to be longer-lasting.”
Obama Takes Executive Action on Immigration
On November 20, 2014, President Obama delivered a televised address to the nation announcing the elements of his executive order on immigration, an executive order that usurped, for the Executive branch of government, the legislative authority and role of Congress. In a measure that was expected to affect some 5 million immigrants, the president said that the U.S. would not seek to deport any illegal immigrants who had "[have] been in America more than five years"; who "have children who are American citizens or legal residents"; who could "pass a criminal background check and [be] willing to pay your fair share of taxes." His remarks included the following:
For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations.... But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.
It's been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven't done much about it. When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history.... Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.
Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn't perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.
Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.
Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President -- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me -- that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just. Tonight, I am announcing those actions.
First, we'll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over. Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed. Third, we'll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.
I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable -- especially those who may be dangerous. That's why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that's why we're going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who's working hard to provide for her kids. We'll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.
But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants -- in every state, of every race and nationality -- will still live here illegally. And let's be honest -- tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn't realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn't being straight with you. It's also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours....
Now here's the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we're going to offer the following deal: If you've been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you're willing to pay your fair share of taxes -- you'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.
That's what this deal is. Now let's be clear about what it isn't. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive -- only Congress can do that. All we're saying is we're not going to deport you.
I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it's not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today -- millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That's the real amnesty -- leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I'm describing is accountability -- a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you're a criminal, you'll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.
The actions I'm taking are not only lawful, they're the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.... Congress certainly shouldn't shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock....
Most Americans support the types of reforms I've talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don't like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they've gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that's not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it's important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other's character.
Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It's about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations. Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?
Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?...
Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I've seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn't have the right papers. I've seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people -- our neighbors, our classmates, our friends -- they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America's success....
Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal -- that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.
That's the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That's the tradition we must uphold. That's the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.
Obama Unwittingly Admits That His Executive Order Violates the Constitution
During a November 25, 2014 address in Chicago, Obama, who had theretofore argued that his recently issued executive amnesty order was well within the bounds of existing law, was heckled for several minutes by immigration protesters who claimed that he was permitting too many illegals to be deported. Eventually Obama said to the heclers: "Now, you're absolutely right that there have been significant numbers of deportations. That's true. But what you are not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law.... It doesn't make much sense to yell at me right now, when we're making changes."
As The Weekly Standard pointed out in its report on this incident: "The United States Constitution says the legislative power is held by Congress, not by the president."
Obama Issues Another Executive Order on Immigration
In late March 2015, Pesident Obama issued another executive order on immigration, this time broadening the definition of “specialized knowledge” for L-1B intracompany transfer visas to potentially cover just about any foreign worker and erasing the requirement for employers to demonstrate a lack of Americans who could perform the job.
The Department of Homeland Security explained that the L-1B classification “enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.” If a company does not have an affiliated office in the U.S., the classification also allows them to send a “specialized knowledge employee” to the U.S. to set one up.
As journalist Byron York explained, the term “specialized knowledge”—which is supposed to mean a knowledge or skill difficult to find in America—had always been nebulous, but President Obama has now rendered it essentially meaningless, making it applicable to just about any transferee a company might choose to send to America:
Companies transferring foreign workers to the U.S. have to make the case to an “adjudicator” from the United States Customs and Immigration Services. It’s not a terribly tough job; the definition of “specialized knowledge” was already pretty loose. In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigated L-1Bs and found that “the program allows for the transfer of workers with ‘specialized knowledge,’ but the term is so broadly defined that adjudicators believe they have little choice but to approve almost all petitions.” Standards were tightened somewhat after the study, but now Obama wants to loosen them again.
York pointed out that Obama’s new rules also dropped the requirement for employers to demonstrate the “lack of readily available workers to perform the relevant duties in the United States,” thus erasing the other crucial aspect of the original policy and kicking open the door for future foreign workers.
PRESIDENT OBAMA GRANTS 1,400+ OBAMACARE WAIVERS
* Nothing in the ACA law expressly empowers the Executive Branch of government to selectively exempt any person or group from any provision in the statute. Nevertheless, President Obama (through Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius) unilaterally altered the law by granting almost 1,400 waivers permitting—for one year—certain companies and labor unions to set low caps on benefit payouts of their employee healthcare plans, even though the law mandates an end to annual caps.
Some of these plans capped benefits at $2,000; one capped benefits at just $300.
These waivers affected almost 3.1 million workers nationwide, of whom more than half (1.55 million) were union members. Given that only a small percentage of American workers are unionized, this was a grossly disproportionate figure.
Unions have consistently been extremely strong, partisan supporters of President Obama and the Democratic Party. [DOHL: Loc. 319-21, 329-34, 510-14]
REGULATIONS ADDED TO OBAMACARE
* Obamacare empowers the Secretary (Kathleen Sebelius) of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make virtually every important decision about the American healthcare system and its administration. There are more than a thousand places in the ACA law that read: “The Secretary shall…” In other words, HHS, which serves the will of the President, can essentially mold and reshape the law however it pleases, whenever it pleases. [DOHL: Loc. 1490-94]
* During the six months that immediately followed the ACA's passage, some 4,105 pages of new regulations were issued, mostly from HHS and the new commissions, boards, and panels reporting to Secretary Sebelius. [DOHL: Loc. 1490-94]