President Barack Obama's big immigration speech in Chicago Tuesday included a stunning aside as he talked down hecklers upset at his deportation record.
"What you're not paying attention to is, I just took an action to change the law," he said to them, saying he couldn't understand why the hecklers would still be mad at him.
He also noted that his actions changing enforcement priorities would apply to "everyone" — i.e., all immigrants here illegally, not just the more than four million the administration estimates will qualify for work permits and deportation relief under his latest immigration action. The White House has defended Obama's action as a case of prosecutorial discretion grounded in precedent over decades, as many other presidents have also granted executive amnesty of one form or another without Congress.
But Obama did not "change the law."
That's Congress's job.
The comment is certain to feed into the Republican attack that Obama is acting like an "emperor." Obama's immigration action seems certain to be challenged in court at some point, although the White House has doubts as to whether anyone will get standing to sue. It could ultimately come down to whether five Republican nominees on the Supreme Court agree that Obama has the authority.
Obama's numerous earlier comments that he didn't have the authority to act in a sweeping way on deportations have already been widely deployed against him by the GOP.
A group of conservative House Republicans wrote a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Tuesday urging that the House file a lawsuit to undo the president's action in addition to defunding it.
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