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President Obama delivered a 15-minute speech in which he unveiled his immigration plan Thursday evening.
“Today our immigration is broken, and everyone knows it,” Obama said.
There are any number of marvelous things one might do as president, if Congress were not such a checked and balanced mess. But future presidents now have a new method at their disposal: Declare a long-running debate to be a national emergency. Challenge Congress, under threat of unilateral executive action, to legislate on the topic before your term runs out. And when lawmakers refuse, act with the most expansive definition of presidential power.
The supporting arguments for this approach come down to the claim that the American political system is broken — incapable of action on urgent matters because of obstructionism, bad faith and the abuse of legislative procedure. It is the political philosophy of “something must be done.”
The arguments against this approach often come down to institutionalism. Major policy shifts, in this view, deserve legislative hearings and an open amendment process. The White House should make its views known and issue veto threats. There should be a negotiation between the House and Senate to reconcile a bill. There should be a presidential signature, or a veto and an override debate. The machinery is admittedly creaky, but it manufactures democratic legitimacy.
President Obama has ably and sequentially defended both these positions. A year ago, during another immigration speech, a heckler insisted, “You have a power to stop deportations.” Obama replied: “Actually, I don’t, and that’s why we’re here. . . . What you need to know, when I’m speaking as president of the United States and I come to this community, is that if, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve.”
Obama has now officially abandoned the harder path — not because the issues surrounding immigration will never be resolved (a case no one has adequately made) but because he wants to be the president to resolve them. Since our democratic process has proved disappointing during his time in office, we get a convenient reinterpretation of tradition — using a history of reasonable discretion in tying up the loose ends of a law to justify a major policy shift in the absence of law. This is motivated reasoning on steroids — and future presidents of both parties will likely find it appealing, on a variety of issues.
By crossing this particular Rubicon, Obama has given up on politics, which is, from one perspective, understandable. He doesn’t do it well. He has always viewed the political process as sullied, compared with the reasonableness of his policy insights. In the aftermath of his party’s midterm defeat, he diagnosed a problem of salesmanship. “It’s not enough just to build a better mousetrap,” he said. “People don’t automatically come beating to your door. We’ve got to sell it.”
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President Obama unveiled his plan to reshape the nation’s immigration system during a 15-minute address from the White House.
Tired of Congressional gridlock, Obama said he is issuing an executive order and all but challenged Republicans to come up with a different plan, the New York Times reports.
Under his plan, up to five million people will be shielded from deportation, but the president offered no path to citizenship.
“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half-century,” Obama said. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”
President Obama is expected to spend the next several months convincing Americans that his plan is good and lawful. He’ll be speaking today at a high school in Las Vegas, where Hispanics have growing influence.
Republicans argue the president is abusing his office and pledged a Congressional battle.
High-flying drones have been spotted near airports and bridges in New York, prompting the FBI and Federal Aviation Administration to investigate, CBS Local reports.
The drones were spotted by three pilots near commercial aircraft approaching John F. Kennedy International Airport. A helicopter pilot spotted two more drones near LaGuardia Airport
The drones are troublesome because they were flying at altitudes of 2,000 to 3,000 feet, far in excess of the 400-feet limit. They are seen as a distraction, and officials don’t know why they are in the air, causing some unease.
“They’re the fun toy to have now, but they have real, serious and dire consequences if misused,” said aviation attorney and pilot Daniel O. Rose.
As the FBI steps up its crackdown on cyberattacks, the FBI is changing how it assigns agents to handle the crimes.
The Hill reports that the bureau will stop assigning agents to cyber crimes based on the location of the victim.
Instead, the most talented FBI divisions will handle the most serious cyberattacks, FBI Director James Comey said.
“Notions of traditional ‘my division, your division’ don’t really make sense in that environment,” Comey said at the Overseas Security Advisory Council annual briefing on Wednesday.
“For the first time at the FBI, we’re going to approach cyber by not being bound to traditional notions of area of responsibility,” he explained.
Each threat, Comey said, will be examined for its dangers and then will be assigned to up to four regional field offices to help the local hacking victims.
Comey said it’s a work-in-progress, and he’s open to suggestions.
“We’re going to try that,” he said. “We want to get feedback.”
An off-duty Border Patrol agent was killed and another injured in a two-car accident Thursday morning near Laredo, Texas.
The San Antonio Express-News reports that the agents were driving near the Cotulla station at 1:40 a.m. when a car traveling the wrong way crashed into them.
The collision killed a six-year veteran of the agency. Another agent was taken to the hospital by helicopter, and his condition was unknown at the time.
Border Patrol didn’t release the identities of the agents.
This was not your ordinary drug bust.
Border Patrol agents found more than $1 million worth of cocaine in a car driven by a 25-year-old Mexican man, Breitbart reports.
The man was crossing the Pharr International Bridge when agents stopped him for a secondary inspection.
Agents found 15 packages of cocaine weighing more than 37 pounds.
“Excellent teamwork from our frontline officers contributed to this significant seizure of hard narcotics,” CBP Port Director Efrain Solis Jr. said. ”The ability to detect inconsistencies and anomalies with travelers and vehicles is how every smuggling interception is initiated and ultimately how drugs are kept from being introduced into our communities.”