“I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books, but that doesn't mean I don't know very well the real pain and heartbreak that deportations cause,” Obama told the National Council of La Raza at the group’s annual meeting in Washington. “I share your concerns and I understand them. And I promise you, we are responding to your concerns and working every day to make sure we are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane and best possible way. “Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own -- and believe me, right now, dealing with Congress--” The audience interrupted him with chants of “Yes you can! Yes you can!”
“Believe me -- believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting,” Obama responded. “I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that's not how -- that's not how our system works.” “That’s not how our democracy functions,” he continued. “That's not how our Constitution is written.” To some critics, it appears that the Obama administration is taking immigration matters into its own hands.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), a component of the Department of Homeland Security, in a June 17 memo directed federal authorities to use "prosecutorial discretion" in deciding which illegal aliens to detain and deport, citing limited resources as the reason. The intention is to kick out the worst offenders and release the all the others – specifically victims of domestic violence and other crimes; witnesses to crimes; or people who are charged with minor traffic violations.
Obama told the La Raza crowd that fixing the immigration system is “unfinished business” for his administration, and he promised to work tirelessly to improve it, although the White House – aside from floating ideas in speeches -- has not put forward its own immigration reform plan. The president also said he supports the DREAM Act, introduced by congressional Democrats. The DREAM Act, which Congress rejected last December, would provide a path to legal status for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and who have been here for five years, graduated high school or gained a similar certification, and who join the military or attend college.