In the run-up to President Obama's announcement of his executive actions on immigration reform, there were accusations, mostly from the right, that Obama was abusing the powers of his office. But according to the White House's legal rationale for the policies, which were released last night, the administration is only doing what Congress has told it to do.
The key points are pithily captured in this paragraph by Walter Dellinger, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, in Slate:
The fundamental fact is this: There are 11.3 million people in the United States who, for one reason or another, are deportable. The largest number that can be deported in any year under the resources provided by Congress is somewhere around 400,000. Congress has recognized this and in 6 U.S.C. 202 (5) it has directed the secretary of homeland security to establish "national immigration enforcement policies and priorities." In the action announced tonight, the secretary has done just that, and the president has approved. [Slate]
Those priorities would include not deporting certain immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens and whose records are clean. Under this interpretation, to even say that Obama has acted "unilaterally," as so many have, would be incorrect. Read the rest of Dellinger's case at Slate.