Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014 11:28 am

Lincoln Journal Star | Guest Opinion

President Barack Obama might be able to dramatically overhaul U.S. immigration policy by unilateral executive action.

Possibly some of his actions might even survive a constitutional challenge in federal court.

That still does not mean he should go ahead with such a plan.

There’s no doubt, as the Journal Star editorial board has said for years, that current immigration policy in the United States is broken.

But trying to fix the system with unilateral presidential action is the wrong way to fix it.

The range of options that the president is considering reportedly includes deferring deportation of anyone who eventually would have been eligible for citizenship under a bill passed by the U.S. Senate last year. Supposedly that would affect 9 million people.

Some reports say that those illegal immigrants would be granted work permit to give them legal status in the United States.

Legal experts differ on whether Obama’s actions would pass constitutional muster. Proponents of the plan to “go big” say that such action would be justified under the concept of prosecutorial discretion, under which the executive branch traditionally has the authority to decide when to file charges.

A major problem with the plan to make a bold move to reform immigration policy is that it could be overturned by the next president, which would throw the system into even more chaos.

Another huge question is what the impact would be on the number of immigrants entering the country illegally. Would it act as an incentive that would dwarf the problem of unaccompanied children crossing the border?

Yet another concern is that unilateral action by the president would further inflame passions and divide Americans.

Polls suggest that most Americans would oppose a move by Obama to expand the deferral program. Only 31 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of immigration, according to a new AP-GfK poll. Forty-four percent of respondents blame Republicans for congressional failure to take action; 36 percent blame Democrats.

Frustrating as it is that Congress has not taken action — the Senate passed a bill last year but the House refused to allow the bill to come to a vote — that does not justify such sweeping executive action. If the president gives temporary legal status to millions of immigrants, it would create more problems than it solves. Only Congress can truly reform immigration policy. Americans should demand action.

Lincoln Journal Star

They left out the part about how the House passed a bill this year but the Senate has refused to allow it to come up for a vote.