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FFS – Obama had no ability to decrease the number of deportations

The dumbest argument that I heard in the last Democratic Debate was the notion (and attack on Joe Biden) that fmr. President Obama should have reduced the number of deportations.  As the NYT summarized:

Other Democrats, siding with Mr. Castro, joined in piling on Mr. Biden, the front-runner.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York repeatedly asked whether Mr. Biden had tried to stop deportations during the Obama administration.

“I didn’t hear your response. You were vice president of the United States. I didn’t hear whether you tried to stop them or not, using your power, your influence in the White House.” Mr. de Blasio said

He was joined by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who has released a plan that he said would “virtually eliminate” immigration detentions[.] 

Castro, de Blasio and Booker are either being dishonest or are inexcusably uninformed.  Here are the facts:  (i) Congress appropriates an amount of money for deportation of undocumented immigrants, and (ii) any President must spend that appropriated amount on deportations — by law, a President cannot choose not to spend appropriated money for the designated purposes.    

As Democrats, we should intimately know the above because it was a great achievement by Democrats as part of the post-Watergate reforms, called The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.  This law deliberately prohibits a President from deciding not to spend appropriated money for its purposes and was enacted after Democrats found that fmr. President Richard Nixon was simply refusing to carry out funded laws and policies that he disagreed with.  The technical defense was called “impoundment,” and the Democratic Congress effectively outlawed it.  

This law also was a small-d democratic achievement and, as one example, is the reason that the Trump administration has to spend appropriated money on Obamacare.  Democrats who argue that they would do otherwise concerning immigration and border security are wrong, are proposing illegal conduct, and are offering cover to the Republicans’ greatest wish to get rid of this crucial post-Watergate reform.

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