It seems likely that we’ll be hearing, from either President Obama himself or from his surrogates, in the days ahead that the decision to grant legal status to young adults currently illegally in the country, wasn’t about politics, but about doing the right thing. But interestingly, as recently as April, the White House was actively working against Senator Marco Rubio’s proposed DREAM Act. From Salon:
The Obama White House hates the idea. Last week, presidential advisors Celia Munoz and Valerie Jarrett tried to discourage the dreamers from embracing Rubio’s proposal, saying it put at risk the original DREAM Act, which laid out a specific path to citizenship. According to the Washington Post, they had a meeting with DREAM Act-eligible students in Washington, arguing that “Rubio had not demonstrated he could win support from fellow Republicans and that the president would use his clout to push an immigration plan next year. ”
[DREAM activist Gabby] Pacheco, who attended the meeting, was not impressed with the White House appeal.
“You can’t wait until next year if you’re getting deported this year,” she said. She described the White House officials as “very strategic” in their opposition to Rubio.
So when there was a potentially viable path to giving these young adults legal status — a path that, admittedly, was so retro it involved letting Congress vote on the matter — the White House did what they could to shut down the potential legislation’s path to success.
Also, it looks like Obama himself thought last year that he couldn’t give young adults illegally here legal status last year, although I don’t have the full context of the question he was asked. From an account of the President’s response from United We Dream:
When Ramos asked a follow-up question about granting formal administrative relief to undocumented youth, Obama was even more forceful: “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.”
Pacheco also said that when DREAMers asked the White House could halt the deportations without Congress’ approval, the White House said that wasn’t in the cards. “The thing that surprised us was they said no,” Pacheco told Salon. “They said, practically, ‘We don’t have the power to do this.’”