As President Obama seems intent on moving ahead with sweeping executive action on immigration, the following are some questions that the media might consider asking him:
1) Mr. President, you often blame congressional Republicans for Congress’s inability to pass immigration reform. However, your party held Congress during 2009 and 2010. If the need for immigration reform is so great, why did you not work to pass it during that period?
2) Mr. President, it is no secret that many top Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and former vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, are very sympathetic to passing immigration reform. Why do you think, then, that your administration has struggled to pass an immigration package during this Congress?
3) For years leading up to this decision, you denied that you had the ability to bypass Congress and implement changes to U.S. immigration policy unilaterally. Yet now you seem to be claiming that you do have the power to go it alone on immigration. Were you wrong when you earlier denied that you had this power? Were those earlier statements “speak-os,” as Jonathan Gruber might put it?
4) Many on both the right and left have asserted that your potential executive action on immigration could set a dangerous precedent, allowing future presidents to essentially nullify portions of the law that they disagree with as a policy matter. They have posed hypotheticals relating to tax policy, environmental laws, and so forth. Are you in any way concerned about setting such a precedent? How could you procedurally differentiate your action on immigration from a future president’s potential decision to stop enforcing parts of the tax code?
5) In 2008, you said the following about President George W. Bush: ”The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush 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.” How would Barack Obama of 2008 respond to the Barack Obama of 2014 on executive power? Wouldn’t taking this executive action be basically an admission that you have refused to deliver on this campaign promise?
6) Mr. President, as you know, many staunch advocates of immigration reform, such as John McCain, have begged you not to take unilateral action, fearing that such action would sabotage efforts to pass a legislative immigration package. You yourself have said that a legislative solution would be far better than executive action. If your executive action poisons the well for immigration reform in the future, will you take responsibility for that?
7) Many of your allies believe that you formulated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012 in order to preempt a legislative effort at the DREAM Act being worked on by Florida senator Marco Rubio, among others. Do you think DACA has in any way contributed to the failure of efforts to pass the DREAM Act on the federal level?
8) If there is any risk of your action imperiling future legislation, why are you acting now? You clearly were comfortable delaying action until after the midterm elections, so why are you unwilling to wait another few months?
9) Mr. President, in 2010 you said the following: “There 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 recognize the sense of compassion that drives this argument, but 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.” In light of those remarks, are you concerned that your executive action will lead to more illegal immigration?
10) Finally, Mr. President, let’s talk about the average American. Obviously, the past eight years have not been kind to the average working family. Even many college graduates face lackluster career prospects, and many Americans have dropped out of the workforce. What do you say to those Americans? Can you promise them that future unauthorized immigration will not harm their employment prospects? If you cannot promise them that, what concrete steps will you take in order to protect the interests of both the native-born and legal immigrant worker?