President Obama defended, in the face of mounting criticism, his decision to delay immigration reform action Sunday, saying that he wants to ‘spend some time … to make sure the public understands why we’re doing this.’

(by Dan Friedman and Corinne Lestch, NY Daily News) – President Obama is delaying action on his June promise to remake federal immigration policies through executive authority until after the November midterm elections,  a White House official said Saturday.

Obama had promised to act by the end of summer, but with the midterm elections looming, worried Senate Democrats have pressured him to postpone any action.

Administration officials think any move to enact immigration laws could kill the Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the Senate.

“The President has made clear that while nothing replaces Congress acting on comprehensive immigration reform, given the House Republicans’ refusal to act for over a year, the President will use his executive authority to take significant steps to reform our broken immigration system,” said the White House official.

Obama plans to use executive action – circumventing Congress – before the end of the year, the official said.

Worried that any Democratic losses would impede broader overhaul in the future, Obama made his decision coming home from the NATO summit in Wales Friday, aides said.

But enraged immigration activists said Obama’s delay demonstrates pure political posturing.

“We are bitterly disappointed in the President and we are bitterly disappointed in the Senate Democrats,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration reform group [working to enact federal legislation to give citizenship to the 11 million immigrants currently in the U.S. illegally].

Republican leaders also took a jab at Obama.

“What’s so cynical about today’s immigration announcement is that the President isn’t saying he’ll follow the law, he’s just saying he’ll go around the law once it’s too late for Americans to hold his party accountable in the November elections,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).

The issue has heated up in recent months with the flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the US.-Mexico border. More than 30,000 children have passed through since January. (see “Background” below the questions)

Reprinted here for educational purposes only.  May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Daily News.


NOTE TO STUDENTS: Before answering the questions, read the “Background” below explaining midterm elections, the illegal immigration crisis and executive orders.

1. a) Define executive order.
b) Why has President Obama promised to use executive order to implement immigration reform?

2. In June, what time frame did President Obama give for taking executive action on immigration?

3. When will President Obama actually take action on immigration reform, according to a White House official’s announcement on Saturday?

4. For what reason did President Obama backtrack on his promise to act by summer’s end to change U.S. immigration policy?

5. How do President Obama’s supporters (immigration activists) view the President’s change?

6. What do opponents say about his backtracking?

7. What do you think:

  1. Would the president’s decision to wait until after the election make you more or less likely to vote for Democratic candidates up for election? Explain your answer.
  2. Would your answer be different if you oppose or support the changes the President will make to immigration policy? (If you support President Obama’s use of executive order to make changes, and you support his decision to wait until after the elections to give Democrats a better chance to get re-elected, would you also support a Republican president doing the same for policies he supported?) Explain your answer.
  3. Whether you are Democrat, Republican, etc. or liberal, conservative, etc., which way of making major changes to U.S. policy is best for the country? Explain your answer.
  4. Are President Obama and Democrats in Congress trying to deceive the American people or are they just being pragmatic, or both? Explain your answer.



This is a midterm election year.  During these midterm elections, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested. Midterm elections are those elections that fall in even-numbered years that do not feature a presidential election.  In addition to the Congressional races, there will be 38 state and territorial governor races, 46 state legislatures (except LouisianaMississippiNew Jersey and Virginia), four territorial legislatures and numerous state and local races. 


Beginning in 2014 tens of thousands of women and children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador migrated to the United States. Many of the children came without adults and quickly overwhelmed local border patrols. Most women and children from Central America simply crossed the Rio Grande and turned themselves in to the U.S. Border Patrol, relying on the belief that U.S. immigration and refugee law made special provision for children. The large number of migrants entitled to hearings, counsel, and placement overwhelmed U.S. immigration courts and other government facilities. [adapted from a wikipedia entry]

NPR reported in July: “Since October, more than 52,000 children — most from Central America and many of them unaccompanied by adults — have been taken into custody. That’s nearly double last year’s total and 10 times the number from 2009.

U.S. policy requires that Mexican children crossing the border be sent back quickly; Central American children are not immediately sent back because under a 2008 law meant to combat child trafficking, children from Central America must be given a court hearing before they are deported (or allowed to stay). Given the huge backlog of cases, they may have to wait years for a hearing.


Various news reports state that President Obama signed executive orders; others refer to them as executive actions. The White House website states that the first signed by President Obama this week was an executive order and the other an executive memoranda.

  • A presidential executive order (EO) is a directive issued to federal agencies, department heads, or other federal employees by the President under his statutory or constitutional powers.
  • Executive actions are any informal proposals or moves by the president. The term executive action itself is vague and can be used to describe almost anything the president calls on Congress or his administration to do. But most executive actions carry no legal weight. Those that do actually set policy can be invalidated by the courts or undone by legislation passed by Congress.
  • The terms executive action and executive order are not interchangeable. Executive orders are legally binding and published in the Federal Register, though they also can be reversed by the courts and Congress.
  • Executive memoranda are similar to executive orders in that they carry legal weight allowing the president to direct government officials and agencies. But executive memoranda are typically not published in the Federal Register unless the president determines the rules have “general applicability and legal effect.” (from about .com)

“America does not stand still, and neither will I,” Obama said. “So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

So how is an executive order different from a law? According to USA.gov, the federal government’s official website, “presidents use executive orders to direct and manage how the federal government operates.”

The order is a directive from the president that has much of the same power as a federal law. And like a federal law, Congress can pass a new law to override an executive order, subject to a presidential veto.

With the Democrats controlling the Senate, the chance of a successful veto of an executive order would be slim at best. For its part, the Supreme Court can overrule an order in the same way it would find a law unconstitutional.

In historical terms, there have been significant decisions made via executive order or its ancestor, the presidential proclamation.

President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War using a presidential proclamation, and two orders comprised Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

President Franklin Roosevelt established internment camps during World War II using Executive Order 9066. Roosevelt also used an executive order to create the Works Progress Administration. (blog.constitutioncenter.org)

…How far-reaching have Obama’s orders and actions been and how do they compare to what other presidents have done?

  • On immigration, the president has signed orders to halt the deportation of those who came to the U.S. when they were young, those who care for children and those who haven’t committed crimes. He’s also started to allow some relatives of U.S. service members living here illegally to stay. There’s more to come…
  • Obama has also signed far reaching orders on climate change in November 2013 – forcing power plants to cut their emissions by 30 percent by 2030 – which will be much discussed in this year’s elections.
  • The president has instigated 23 separate executive orders on gun control…
  • Through his executive powers, Obama has slowly extended the rights for same-sex couples
  • and raised the minimum wage for federal workers to $10.10. (from a July 10 washpost blog post)
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