News & Politics

10 Times Barack Obama Acknowledged That DACA Was Unconstitutional

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 at Morehouse College in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

On Thursday afternoon, Obama praised the Supreme Court’s ruling that Trump’s ending of DACA was illegal. “Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation,” Obama tweeted. “Today, I’m happy for them, their families, and all of us.”

I can still remember when Barack Obama was campaigning in 2008, claiming to be the cure to unconstitutional abuses of power he claimed were systemic in the Bush administration. “I take the Constitution very seriously,” he claimed. “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all.”

“And that is what I intend to reverse when I become president of the United States,” Obama promised.

I could spend all day talking about how Obama abused his power and violated the Constitution, but in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to stop President Trump’s attempts to end DACA, I think it’s necessary to examine how Barack Obama, who fancied himself to be an authority on the Constitution, acknowledged that he did not have the power to unilaterally alter immigration law—which is exactly what he did when he created DACA via executive action.

The quotes below come from Obama himself acknowledging that his eventual executive order that created the DACA program would be an abuse of power, exceeding the authority granted to him by the United States Constitution.

1. During remarks at a 2010 Cinco de Mayo Celebration

“Comprehensive reform, that’s how we’re going to solve this problem. … Anybody who tells you it’s going to be easy or that I can wave a magic wand and make it happen hasn’t been paying attention to how this town works.” —Barack Obama, May 5, 2010

2. During remarks on comprehensive immigration reform at American University

“…there are those in the immigrants’ rights community who have argued passionately that we should simply provide those who are [here] illegally with legal status, or at least ignore the laws on the books and put an end to deportation until we have better laws. […] I believe such an indiscriminate approach would be both unwise and unfair. It would suggest to those thinking about coming here illegally that there will be no repercussions for such a decision. And this could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration. And it would also ignore the millions of people around the world who are waiting in line to come here legally. Ultimately, our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable.” Barack Obama, July 1, 2010

3. During an MTV/BET town hall meeting and a question-and-answer session

“I do have an obligation to make sure that I am following some of the rules. I can’t simply ignore laws that are out there. I’ve got to work to make sure that they are changed.” Barack Obama, October 14, 2010

4. During a radio interview with Univision

“I am president, I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself. We have a system of government that requires the Congress to work with the Executive Branch to make it happen. I’m committed to making it happen, but I’ve got to have some partners to do it. … The main thing we have to do to stop deportations is to change the laws. … [T]he most important thing that we can do is to change the law because the way the system works – again, I just want to repeat, I’m president, I’m not king. If Congress has laws on the books that says that people who are here who are not documented have to be deported, then I can exercise some flexibility in terms of where we deploy our resources, to focus on people who are really causing problems as opposed to families who are just trying to work and support themselves. But there’s a limit to the discretion that I can show because I am obliged to execute the law. That’s what the Executive Branch means. I can’t just make the laws up by myself. So the most important thing that we can do is focus on changing the underlying laws.”Barack Obama, October 25, 2010

5. During a Univision town hall

“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. But I can advocate for changes in the law so that we have a country that is both respectful of the law but also continues to be a great nation of immigrants. […] With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed […] We’ve got three branches of government. 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. 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.” Barack Obama, March 28, 2011

6. During remarks at a Facebook town hall meeting and a question-and-answer session

“I can’t solve this problem by myself. Nancy Pelosi is a big champion of this. The Democratic Caucus in the House, I think, is prepared for–a majority of them are prepared to advance comprehensive immigration reform. But we’re going to have to have bipartisan support in order to make it happen. […] I can’t do it by myself. We’re going to have to change the laws in Congress, but I’m confident we can make it happen.”  Barack Obama, April 20, 2011

7. During the 2011 Miami Dade College commencement

“I strongly believe we should fix our broken immigration system. […] And I want to work with Democrats and Republicans, yes, to protect our borders, and enforce our laws, and address the status of millions of undocumented workers. And I will keep fighting alongside many of you to make the DREAM Act the law of the land. Like all of this country’s movements towards justice, it will be difficult and it will take time.  I know some here wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how democracy works.  See, democracy is hard. But it’s right.” Barack Obama, April 29, 2011

8. During remarks on comprehensive immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial

“And sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself.  But that’s not how a democracy works.  What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine, comprehensive reform.  That is the ultimate solution to this problem.  That’s what I’m committed to doing. ” Barack Obama, May 10, 2011

9. During remarks to the National Council of La Raza

“Now, 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.  I share your concerns and I understand them. […] Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. […]  Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting.  I promise you. Not just on immigration reform.  But that’s not how—that’s not how our system works.” Barack Obama, July 25, 2011

10. During a roundtable with questions from Yahoo!, MSN Latino, AOL Latino, and HuffPost Latino Voices

“But we have not been more aggressive when it comes to dealing, for example, with DREAM Act kids.  That’s just not the case. So what we’ve tried to do is within the constraints of the laws on the books, we’ve tried to be as fair, humane, just as we can, recognizing, though, that the laws themselves need to be changed. […] But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce.  And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things.  It’s just not true. […] We live in a democracy.  You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it.  And if all the attention is focused away from the legislative process, then that is going to lead to a constant dead-end.  We have to recognize how the system works, and then apply pressure to those places where votes can be gotten and, ultimately, we can get this thing solved.” Barack Obama, September 28, 2011

RELATED: Supreme Court Refuses to End DACA in Ruling Authored by Chief Justice John Roberts

Quotes originally compiled by the office of the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, in 2014

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis