(CNSNews.com) - Why did President Obama wait so long to announce a change in immigration policy -- and was he right to bypass Congress in doing so? CNN's Candy Crowly put those questions to senior White House adviser David Plouffe on Sunday.
"Let me ask you about the immigration decision that was made Friday and read you something from George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley who said the president is using executive power to do things congress has refused to do, and that does fit a disturbing pattern of expansion of executive power under President Obama," Crowley asked Plouffe. "In many ways, he has fulfilled the dream of an imperial presidency that Richard Nixon strived for. This is a president who is now functioning as a super legislator. Why did you, a, wait this long to do this? And b, isn't the appropriate place to make these decisions congress which passes the laws, immigration law in particular?"
Plouffe said it was a matter of "discretion in enforcement."
"Well, first, let's start with this is a decision the Department of Homeland Security made," said Plouffe. "This is, so that they have the discretion in enforcement so that we focus on criminals and those that cause or could endanger our communities and that is where the focus of our immigration enforcement efforts need to be. These kids who want to serve in our military who are going to college they're working in our businesses, they now can apply--is not a permanent fix by the way.
Crowley followed up: "You went around Congress is the point. I understand the policy, and the reasons for it.":
"If Congress would act," Plouffe said, "we would be happy to sign the DREAM Act tomorrow."
"But there are three branches of government," said Crowley. "You know how this works."
"This is fully within our ability," said Plouffe. "This, and again, this was an enforcement discretion decision. So this is not some permanent, this is not amnesty, this is not citizenship, this gives these hardworking kids who are hear through no fault of their own who are going to staff our labs, start our businesses, serve in our military, the ability for a two year period to apply for work authorization.We need a permanent fix. The only way to do that, we agree, is for Congress to pass the DREAM Act."
Crowley noted that the Obama administration could have changed immigration enforcement policy in any one of the last three years--but instead, it is happening five months before the election.
"It was not done with some political consideration," Crowley said.
"It was not, Candy," Plouffe replied.
"Five months before the election?" Crowley asked.
"Well, listen, who knows how the politics will turn out, but this decision was the right decision..."
"And how can you say that?" Crowley asked.
"Well, we'll see. I have ceased making predictions on things, because we will see how they turn out."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he's troubled that the President of the United States "is now dictating that certain laws will not be enforced. That is a rather serious step. It's one thing to say you're not going to challenge a law in court or something like that, but I don't recall a time when any president has basically said, we're not going to enforce a law that's on the books."
McCain said if President Obama were really serious about immigration reform, he would speak with "some of us who have been involved in this issue."
McCain noted that Obama, in 2008, pledged to undertake comprehensive immigration reform: "He had overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. Nothing was done, no proposal was made."
Mccain said he thinks the president's announcement on Friday "is obviously a way to divert attention from very bad news the president's had for the last three or four weeks."