Wash U Expert: Obama within rights to proceed on immigration reform

Legomsky says Boehner’s rhetoric is ‘baffling’

With Republicans gaining control of Congress after the midterm elections, Speaker of the House John Boehner insists that President Barack Obama could get “burned” if he uses executive action to move forward on immigration reform during the remainder of his presidency.


Obama is well within his rights to proceed with the temporary measures he is considering, says an immigration law expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Speaker Boehner’s threat is baffling,” said Stephen H. Legomsky, JD, DPhil, the John S. Lehmann University Professor at the School of Law.

Legomsky is former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“Boehner has consistently blocked a House vote on the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate passed more than a year ago,” Legomsky said. “His excuse has been that his members want ‘piecemeal’ legislation, but they haven’t passed that either — or even voted on it.

“You can’t block legislation for more than a year and then credibly claim that you will pass this legislation if only the president fails to act,” he said. “It would be like (Sen.) Ted Cruz threatening not to support tougher environmental legislation if the EPA regulates greenhouse gases — he wasn’t going to anyway.

Legomsky argues Boehner’s threat is irrational for another reason as well.

“If he doesn’t like the president’s temporary executive measures, that’s all the more reason for Congress to step in and enact permanent solutions,” he said. “The kinds of temporary measures the president is reportedly considering are well within his legal authority. It is prosecutorial discretion plain and simple, and similar to the actions of several of his predecessors.

“It is time to stop branding actions as illegal just because one disagrees with them.”