Obama's actions lawful, top legal scholars say

The White House worked to bolster the legal case for President Obama’s immigration action Thursday night, releasing a letter from a group of prominent legal scholars arguing that the president’s moves were within his legal authorities.

The group included three law professors from the University of Chicago — where the president taught constitutional law before his election — as well as Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and renowned Harvard constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe.

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“While we differ among ourselves on many issues relating to Presidential power and immigration policy, we are all of the view that these actions are lawful,” the professors write. “They are exercises of prosecutorial discretion that are consistent with governing law and with the policies that Congress has expressed in the statutes that it has enacted.”

Republicans have blasted the president’s moves, which would extend deportation relief and work permits to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, as unlawful and unconstitutional.

“President Obama’s executive amnesty violates the laws Congress has passed in order to create and implement laws Congress has refused to pass,” Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsIntel leaders: Collusion still open part of investigation Republicans jockey for position on immigration Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators MORE (R-Ala.) said in a statement.

“This amnesty plan was rejected by the American people’s Congress,” Sessions continued. “By refusing to carry out the laws of the United States in order to make his own, the President is endangering our entire Constitutional order.”

But the law professors argue that the “setting of removal priorities and the use of deferred action” had been “used many times by the executive branch under presidents of both parties, and Congress has explicitly and implicitly endorsed their use.”

Separately, the Department of Justice on Thursday released the memo it prepared for the president on the legality of his proposed executive actions. 

The Justice Department concludes that the program, which will assist parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, would be “permissible exercises of [the Department of Homeland Security’s] discretion to enforce the immigration law.”