The Wall Street Journal is misrepresenting the legal justification for President Obama's executive actions on immigration from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) -- even falsely claiming that the OLC's opinion does not quote "specific statutory language."
On November 20, Obama announced that he would take executive action on immigration by prioritizing deportations of dangerous undocumented immigrants over the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who pass a criminal background check and register for temporary administrative relief. Right-wing media were quick to accuse Obama of lawlessness for this deferred action on deportations and to declare his order "unconstitutional," despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of legal experts agree that the president has the authority to exercise this sort of prosecutorial discretion in service of family unification.
The Wall Street Journal was no exception. Before the president issued his executive order, the Journal claimed in a November 16 editorial that the president didn't have the authority to act on immigration because his administration had not yet received a "written legal justification" from the OLC. According to the editorial, the "President should always seek legal justification for controversial actions to ensure that he is on solid constitutional ground" by asking for the OLC's guidance. The Journal ultimately concluded that "[i]t's possible" the Obama administration hadn't "sought an immigration opinion because they suspect there's little chance that even a pliant Office of Legal Counsel could find a legal justification" -- apparently unaware that Obama had already received legal advice from the OLC, Attorney General Eric Holder, and immigration experts before the Journal published its editorial.
As requested, the OLC published its official opinion on Obama's immigration proposal prior to his announcement on November 20. The opinion determined that the president had the authority to prioritize and defer some deportations over others -- but that apparently wasn't enough to appease the Journal. In a November 24 editorial, the Journal criticized the OLC's opinion: "Now that we've studied the legal memo his government used to support his order, his abuse of power looks even worse." But the editorial incorrectly claimed the opinion allowed the president to "rewrite" the law by "exempting whole categories of people and extending federal benefits that they aren't entitled to by statute." Worse, the Journal falsely claimed the memo omitted information that it actually included. From the November 24 editorial:
The problem, as the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) concedes in the 33-page document, is that "the Executive cannot, under the guise of exercising enforcement discretion, attempt to effectively rewrite laws to match its policy preferences" or apply "set formulas or bright-line rules." Yet Mr. Obama is making precisely such a rewrite, by exempting whole categories of people and extending federal benefits that they aren't entitled to by statute.
By recognizing that there is no categorical exemption, the OLC is implicitly admitting that Mr. Obama is stretching prosecutorial discretion beyond legal norms.
These are the kind of errors that normally scrupulous lawyers make under deadlines or political pressure. The OLC memo reveals that the White House did not submit formal legal questions until Wednesday, Nov. 19, and the OLC drafted the opinion the same day. The details of the new program weren't complete and submitted to the Justice Department until Monday. The OLC published the memo on Thursday, Nov. 20.
We wouldn't be surprised if some West Wing minion read our editorial [from November 16] "The Missing Immigration Memo," panicked, and rushed one out. Mr. Obama's political calculation --in keeping with his lawlessness on health care, drug policy and the rest -- seems to be that he'll dispense with laws or parts of laws that displease him and dare Congress to challenge him. Republicans can and should take the dare.
From the November 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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From the November 25 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent reacted to the decision of a Missouri grand jury to not indict police officer Darren Wilson by attacking "black klansmen" and claiming "millions" of African-Americans "slaughter" each other "every day."
The grand jury was considering whether Wilson should be charged with a crime over his fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.
In a November 24 post on Facebook, Nugent, who is a columnist for several conservative websites, offered "lessons from Ferguson," writing, "Don't let your kids growup to be thugs who think they can steal, assault & attack cops as a way of life & badge of black (dis)honor. Don't preach your racist bullshit 'no justice no peace' as blabbered by Obama's racist Czar Al Not So Sharpton & their black klansmen."
He also wrote, "dont claim that 'black lives matter' when you ignore the millions you abort & slaughter each & every day by other blacks," and concluded, "So quit killin each other you fuckin idiots. Drive safely":
From the November 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the November 20 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Rush Limbaugh is continuing his tirade against President Obama's executive order on immigration, which will reportedly defer deportation for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In addition to ignoring legal experts and the historical precedent for this action, Limbaugh also incorrectly described the legal basis for these immigrants' future work permits.
On November 20, the president will announce plans to exercise prosecutorial discretion and take executive action on immigration, a move that could expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in addition to preserving families by halting deportations for certain groups of undocumented immigrants. The order is also expected to make clear that those affected will be eligible for work authorization permits. Even though every president since Dwight Eisenhower has taken some kind of executive action on immigration, right-wing media have nonetheless attacked Obama's action as illegal.
Limbaugh has been a vocal opponent of the president's executive order, joining the right-wing media's failed attempt to distinguish Obama's order from similar executive actions taken by Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Limbaugh continued to mislead about the order on his November 20 radio show, saying that "there is no way in hell that giving people who are here illegally work permits fits under the rubric of prosecutorial discretion." Even though Limbaugh conceded that "prosecutorial discretion is standard operating procedure, it's been used for centuries," he still concluded that Obama "doesn't have that power" to exercise discretion over deportations because it would "turn [undocumented immigrants] legal":
Right-wing media outlets are trying to draw a distinction between Republican administrations' executive actions on immigration and President Obama's proposed order, claiming that the current president's authority for deferring deportation -- unlike that of his predecessors -- is illegitimate.
On November 20, Obama will reportedly issue an executive order that would suspend deportations for certain classes of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Although the full details of the order aren't yet known, it is expected to focus in part on keeping families together and to provide temporary administrative relief to immigrants who are undocumented but whose children are U.S. citizens or otherwise legally present. There is plenty of legal precedent to support Obama's exercise of prosecutorial discretion to halt some deportation proceedings, and experts from across the political spectrum have pointed out that this sort of executive action has taken place in the past, notably once when Congress failed to pass immigration reform.
Yet right-wing media have nevertheless fearmongered about the legality of Obama's proposed executive action, even though the Associated Press reported that both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush "acted unilaterally on immigration," as have numerous presidents before and since. Despite this Republican precedent, which the American Immigration Council has called a "striking historical parallel," conservative media figures have sought to deny the similarity. Radio host Mark Levin slammed the Associated Press report, saying, "No, Ronald Reagan, no, George H.W. Bush did not do what Obama is about to do," because Reagan was acting in response to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which "Congress passed" and "sent to the president."
National Review Online contributor Mark Krikorian also tried to distinguish Obama's "threatened move" from Reagan and Bush's executive actions, calling the comparison a "nice try." Krikorian went on to argue that Reagan's action "is simply irrelevant to the current case" because it "was a legitimate exercise of prosecutorial discretion shortly after passage of" IRCA. Krikorian also rejected the similarities to George H.W. Bush's immigration order, arguing that it "cannot meaningfully be described as precedent for Obama's scheme" because, among other reasons, Bush's move was a "cleanup measure for the implementation of the once-in-history amnesty that was passed by Congress."
Rush Limbaugh repeated this attack on the November 18 edition of his show, saying that "it's uncanny to me how often the Democrat Party, when they get in a jam and when they know they're doing something that is untoward, when they know they're doing something that's not above board -- like this clearly is not above board -- they go back and they cite Reagan." Later, Limbaugh claimed that "Reagan never took executive action. This is a bold-faced, flat-out lie."
From the November 19 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The Wall Street Journal is misleading about President Obama's proposed executive action on immigration by suggesting he does not have enough legal authority to support the move.
As The New York Times recently reported, Obama is expected to announce as soon as this week an executive order aimed at improving the nation's immigration system. Although specific details about the order have yet to be disclosed, it is expected in part to build upon the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has deferred deportation proceedings for some categories of immigrants. There is plenty of legal precedent and justifications for such a move, and even right-wing media figures like Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly have admitted that the president has the authority to take action on immigration in this way through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
But in a November 16 editorial, the Journal questioned whether Obama had the legal authority to issue his executive order because his administration hadn't yet received "written legal justification" from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. The editorial also misrepresented how prosecutorial discretion actually works and ignored the use of similar executive orders on immigration by Republican presidents in the past.
From the editorial:
If the White House press corps wants to keep government honest, here's a question to ask as President Obama prepares to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants by executive order: Has he sought, and does he have, any written legal justification from the Attorney General and the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) for his actions?
This would be standard operating procedure in any normal Presidency. Attorney General Eric Holder is the executive branch's chief legal officer, and Administrations of both parties typically ask OLC for advice on the parameters of presidential legal authority.
Yet as far as we have seen, Mr. Obama sought no such legal justification in 2012 when he legalized hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The only document we've found in justification is a letter from the Secretary of Homeland Security at the time, Janet Napolitano, to law enforcement agencies citing "the exercise of our prosecutorial discretion." Judging by recent White House leaks, that same flimsy argument will be the basis for legalizing millions more adults.
It's possible Messrs. Obama and Holder haven't sought an immigration opinion because they suspect there's little chance that even a pliant Office of Legal Counsel could find a legal justification. Prosecutorial discretion is a vital legal concept, but it is supposed to be exercised in individual cases, not to justify a refusal to follow the law against entire classes of people.
A recent study indicated that viewers of Fox News are far more likely than viewers of other TV news to believe that voter fraud is a more significant problem than voter suppression, an unsurprising finding given the network's misleading reports on voter ID laws and in-person voter fraud.
Right-wing media have repeatedly defended the need for strict voter ID laws while denying the reality of voter suppression -- particularly in the run-up to the midterm elections. On the November 2 edition of America's News HQ, National Review Online contributor Hans von Spakovsky argued that it was "not true" that strict voter ID laws can "suppress minority voters," even though there were already concrete examples of people of color, women, and the poor being turned away from the polls this past election because they didn't have the type of identification required to vote. Even though a federal court has called one voter ID law an "unconstitutional poll tax," right-wing media have previously called such restrictive ID requirements "a good thing."
Fox News was back on the supposed harmlessness of strict voter ID again on the November 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor. Host Bill O'Reilly rejected a federal court's uncontroverted finding that implementation of Texas' new voter ID law "may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification," as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent from the Supreme Court's refusal to block the law. O'Reilly's guest, fellow Fox News host Eric Shawn, concluded that Ginsburg's prediction was "[n]ot true" because a roundup of disenfranchised voters compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice listed only "about 12" instances of voters being turned away in Texas:
Segments like the one on the Factor might explain why viewers of Fox News disproportionately believe that voter fraud is a bigger problem than voter suppression, despite evidence to the contrary. As Talking Points Memo reported, a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that "people who consider Fox News their most trusted TV news source say that 'people casting votes who are not eligible to vote' is the bigger problem while most people who trust other news stations (CNN, broadcast news, or public television) say that eligible voters who are denied the right to vote is the bigger issue in voting today."
President Obama is expected to announce immigration orders that build upon the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and provide temporary administrative relief for certain undocumented immigrants, an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that right-wing media have attacked as "lawless." But experts across the political spectrum acknowledge that this type of executive action has long been practiced and authorized under federal immigration law.
Right-wing media outlets are criticizing Loretta Lynch, the highly-qualified attorney that President Obama has nominated to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, by attacking her support of voting rights litigation and claiming her membership in one of the country's leading African-American sororities is "controversial."
On September 25, Holder announced that he would step down as attorney general, but would stay in office until his replacement was confirmed. The president nominated Lynch to the post on November 8, citing her extensive legal experience and stating that "it's pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta." Even conservative figures appear to agree, with Republican Senator Lindsay Graham calling her a "solid choice." News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch echoed Graham's sentiment, noting that the nominee has a "reputation for fairness and strict legality." Lynch is a Harvard Law graduate, has decades of experience as a successful and widely praised federal prosecutor, and has served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York since 2010, when she was confirmed by unanimous consent.
But after Obama's announcement, conservative media ignored her qualifications and began to attack Lynch anyway, falsely accusing her of partisanship. Breitbart.com was so eager to find fault in her nomination that it went after the wrong Lynch, erroneously claiming that she was involved in former President Bill Clinton's defense during the Whitewater investigation in 1992. In reality, it was a different attorney named Loretta Lynch who defended the president during the probe that cleared the Clintons; the current nominee Lynch was serving in the U.S. attorney's office at the time.
The attacks have continued even after Breitbart.com issued a correction to its story. On the November 11 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs claimed Lynch's membership in one of the country's leading African-American sororities was "controversial" because Holder's wife, a classmate of Lynch's, also pledged Delta Sigma Theta.
Fox News is sending a mixed message about whether or not President Barack Obama has the legal authority to address the immigration crisis through executive action, even though legal experts agree that such action is perfectly lawful.
After Republicans in the House failed to consider a comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate, President Obama announced that he would take steps to address the issue through lawful executive actions. One possibility is the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which temporarily halts deportation proceedings for young law-abiding undocumented immigrants -- an exercise of standard prosecutorial discretion typical of law enforcement agencies. After the Democrats lost control of the Senate on November 5, the president repeated his promise to move on immigration reform in the absence of congressional action, explaining at a press conference that "we're gonna take whatever lawful actions that I can take that I believe will improve the functioning of our immigration system."
Some Fox News hosts were skeptical about whether the president has the authority to take unilateral executive action, however. On the November 7 edition of Outnumbered, co-host Andrea Tantaros complained that Obama "doesn't care about the constitution" and that he would "get away with" executive action on immigration because "some pointy-nosed Harvard lawyers [will argue] whether or not this is constitutional."
Tantaros' complaints echoed her Fox colleague Sean Hannity, who on the November 6 edition of his show criticized the president's pledge to take executive action on immigration. In an interview with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Hannity argued that the president "may not have the authority do this" and that "immigration law does not allow for the amnesty that the president wants to grant." Lee agreed with Hannity's assessment, and suggested that the proposed order would "lead us from behind into a constitutional crisis":
From the November 4 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto:
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