Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) on Tuesday said President Obama has the legal authority to improve the United States’ immigration system without Congress. 

Obama announced a day earlier he would bypass Congress and take executive action on immigration. 

“I believe the president of the United States already has in statute, under the law, the ability to heal and put in a safe harbor millions of undocumented immigrants until the Congress of the United States finally decides that it’s going to take action,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” 

“But you know what, I don’t see any action. What they are thinking about is the short-term goal of the 2014 election,” he added.


Obama could extend a June 2012, executive order to the parents of 600,000 immigrant youth to defer their deportations, Gutiérrez said. The president, he said, could also put the illegal immigrant parents of 5 million American children in a safe place to raise them. 

“I think that’s in our national interest,” he said. “Just as Republicans said ‘no, no, no,’ I expect the president to be broad, expansive and generous in the use of his prosecutorial discretion.” 

Asked if he feels optimistic about Congress passing immigration reform in the near future, Gutiérrez said, “I don’t.” 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his GOP caucus last week that he wouldn’t hold a vote on immigration this year. 

Gutiérrez argues they oppose such a vote simply because they fear losing their leadership positions.

“Here’s where your problem is: You have a small group of Tea Party folks in the House Republican majority that block it,” he said. “They threaten Speaker Boehner. They say, 'You will no longer be Speaker and [Kevin] McCarthy (R-Calif.) won’t be majority whip if you allow this.’ ” 

“Their numbers are enough to cause that kind of chaos within their own ranks.”