John Yoo, the George W. Bush-era Justice Department lawyer who penned so-called "Torture memos" authorizing controversial interrogation techniques, accused the president Friday of holding a "radical vision of executive power" and usurping the Constitution with his recently enacted policy to stop deporting some young undocumented immigrants.
"Obama’s order has pushed the executive power beyond all constitutional limits," Yoo wrote in a Fox News op-ed posted Friday, adding later that it appeared to be a political move to shore up the Latino vote ahead of the election. "Worried about Hispanic support for his re-election ... Obama simply decided to unilaterally enact his own legislation."
Obama announced in June that some undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children would be granted deferred action -- two years reprieve from deportation concerns -- and work authorization. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said earlier this month that he would end the policy.
Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, pointed out that enforcing immigration law typically has been left to Congress, but the administration can set priorities, which Obama said is the case in the deferred action policy. Existing law does not, Yoo writes, "give the president the authority to interrupt the deportation of whole classes of illegal aliens, and certainly nothing approaching one million."
He released a report in September with University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Robert J. Delahunty -- who coauthored memos on torture -- saying the president is violating the "Take Care clause" by allegedly failing to enforce immigration law.
Yoo and Delahunty are not alone in that view. A number of Republicans have been highly critical of the policy, and the state of Mississippi recently joined a group of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in their lawsuit against the deferred action policy, also charging it with being unconstitutional.
Yoo acknowledged that parallels can be drawn between Obama's policy and actions of the Bush administration, but said the actions are not the same.
"There is a world of difference between putting aside laws that interfere with an executive response to an attack on the country, as in Sept. 11, 2001, and ignoring laws to appeal to a constituency vital to re-election," he wrote. "The former recognizes the president’s primary duty to protect the national security. The latter, unfortunately, represents a twisting of the Constitution’s fabric for partisan ends."
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