Speculation continues as to if and when President Obama will issue an executive order to implement immigration changes. There are no signs that Congress will take action anytime soon, before or after the upcoming November elections. The president has said that if Congress refuses to act, he will take action sometime after next month's elections. Janet Napolitano has voiced her opinion, that an executive order is appropriate under these circumstances.
Janet Napolitano, the former U.S. Attorney General and later Governor of Arizona, said “if Congress refuses to act and perform its duties, then I think it's appropriate for the executive to step in and use his authorities based on law,” to take immigration action. Napolitano, now the President of the University of California, served as the Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama from 2009 to 2013.
Napolitano is no stranger to immigration reform. While acting as the Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. The program has since resulted in deferred deportation for over half a million young people brought into the U.S. as children. DACA remains heavily criticized by many conservatives.
Ahead of a speech given at the University of Georgia School of Law, Napolitano mentioned the complicated debate inside the White House administration back in 2012, whether the program was even possible. In her prepared remarks, Napolitano said, “there were serious logistical concerns. It would run the risk of appearing to make law and usurping Congress...Who knew how it all would turn out?”
In fact, then Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano never actually met with the president before putting a halt to deportations. Instead, she defended the program before a team of White House lawyers. At the time, the White House was concerned with the impression that the president was not acting on immigration.
The DACA program came in response to the inability of Congress to address the Dream Act, which provided a path to citizenship to young immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children. Napolitano has called these “dreamers” the worst victims of the lack of immigration reform. With all signs pointing to further Congressional inaction, any new changes look to come about through a similar path.
Now, in a move which will further anger many Republicans, President Obama plans to take executive action on immigration reform, possibly to create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the country. “What I'm saying is that I'm going to act because it's the right thing for the country. But it's going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration,” said the president.
Implementing an executive change on immigration reform was a novel action from the newly set up Department of Homeland Security. Moving forward, Napolitano has not said what actions the president should take, or what any executive action would entail, but indicated the DACA program could provide a blueprint on how to set up the nuts and bolts of any program.