It feels like déjà vu all over again.
The Congress -- in particular the Republican-controlled House of Representatives -- is unwilling or incapable to act decisively to solve an urgent issue of national importance. The president, understanding that inaction is simply not an option, uses his executive authority to put the law to work for the American people. The "just say no" crowd recoils, accusing the president of a brazen power grab that offends the Constitution.
I'm referring to what happened a little more than six months ago when President Obama used his executive authority to grant DREAM Act eligible youth a temporary reprieve from deportation. The reprieve, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was derived from the legal tradition of prosecutorial discretion, and implemented to give deserving undocumented youth a chance to temporarily step out of the shadows without fear of arrest and removal from the U.S. Since June the Administration has granted deferred action to more than 150,000 undocumented immigrants.
You could be forgiven for thinking I was referencing what happened last week when President Obama issued a series of executive orders designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people with mental health issues. Among other things, the orders use laws already on the books to improve information sharing among state and federal agencies so that deadly weapons, including military-style assault weapons, are not sold to people who will massacre Americans while they're in a classroom, enjoying a movie, or otherwise living their lives.
Importantly, these stop-gap measures on gun control and immigration give Congress the space and opportunity to enact permanent legislative solutions, which will, hopefully, make America safer and fix its dysfunctional immigration system.
Moreover, by decisively using his executive authority, the president is following through, pushing forward the "will of the people" instead of doing nothing. National polls continue to show that Americans -- including many members of the NRA -- overwhelmingly favor common sense restrictions on guns. Through rigorous enforcement of the laws already on the books President Obama is doing what the American people demand but what Congress is scared to do. He is taking bold action to save lives and show the American people that he listens and cares about their safety.
And the same holds true for immigration. As even the newest polls show, the majority of Americans -- including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents -- want the immigration system fixed; they want a safe border and an immigration policy that serves the needs of American families and businesses, and includes a pathway to earned citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. Yes, the system is broken, but the president is well within his rights to use his executive authority to make sure the law is administered as intelligently and humanely as possible until Congress acts to fix it.
But, as Mr. Obama reminded the nation last Wednesday, when it comes to changing the law he cannot do it alone. Real change can come only when the American people demand it, whether it is to ban semi-automatic assault weapons and high capacity clips or enact an overhaul of the immigration "system" we currently deal with, made up of a mismatched patchwork of policies and procedures.
For their part, the Republicans, the NRA leadership, and the anti-immigrant restrictionists need to stop with the sour grapes and recognize that the American people put their trust in President Obama last November. They have every right to oppose him on the issues, but they owe it to the country to do so responsibility, by offering up real policy solutions rather than empty rhetoric and personal attacks.
After all, the entire nation wins when its leaders take bold action to protect the American people.