FLASHBACK: Obama on Deporting Illegals ‘America Is a Nation of Laws,’ Presidential Action Not ‘Appropriate’

June 15, 2012 - 12:35 PM
President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama in Los Angeles on June 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) President Barack Obama – whose administration announced Friday that it would no longer enforce immigration law for certain young illegal immigrants – once told a group of Hispanic students that “America is a nation of laws” and that as president, it was his job to enforce them.

“America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the president, am obligated to enforce the law. I don't have a choice about that. That's part of my job,” Obama said in March 2011 at a town hall event hosted by the Spanish-language television network Univision.

Obama, answering questions from students about deportations of young, school-age illegal immigrants, said that immigration laws were passed by Congress and that only the judiciary could interpret them.

“Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws,” he said.

Obama said executive action to stop deportation would not be “appropriate” for the president to take.

“There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”

Obama’s statements were in response to a question about why his administration was still deporting school-age illegal immigrants, despite its stated policy of focusing on violent or repeat criminals and national security threats.

“My question for the president is why saying that deportations have stopped or the detention of many students like me? Why is it that we are still receiving deportation letters like this one,” the questioner asked Obama in a video, holding up her deportation notice.

Obama’s new proposal is a direct reversal of his March 2011 statement. The new policy states that illegal immigrants who entered the country when they were younger than 16 – and are still under age 30 – can be eligible for a two-year exemption from deportation if they are enrolled in U.S. high school, have graduated or earned a GED, served in the military, and have not been convicted of serious crimes.

Once an illegal immigrant is granted the two-year amnesty, they can then apply for a federal work permit allowing them to be employed legally in the United States.