Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said the White House is "absolutely confident this is within our authority" on President Obama's immigration policy change announced Friday, but emphasized it "is not a permanent solution."
"Our attorneys - the homeland security attorneys - are absolutely confident this is within our authority, to use some discretion," Plouffe told me this morning on "This Week." "And this builds on a series of steps we've taken to try and make sure that we're focusing on tougher border security, that we are deporting criminals, people who pose a threat to our community, not people who are just trying to live the American dream."
President Obama announced a new policy Friday that eases deportation rules for as many as 800,000 undocumented immigrants in the United States, allowing immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 but are younger than 30 and have been in the country for at least five consecutive years to not face deportation, and apply for temporary work authorizations.
"These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag," Obama said Friday from the Rose Garden of the White House. "They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."
"This simply gives Homeland Security and our law enforcement officials the opportunity to enforce the law with some discretion and allows these young people, who came here many times early in their life, who want to serve in our military and work in our businesses and study in our colleges, the ability to apply for a two-year period for work authorization," Plouffe said of the policy change.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called President Obama's decision politically motivated, and said that the president's order "makes reaching a long-term solution more difficult." The move by the administration comes as both Mitt Romney and the president vie for the Latino vote, which will help decide the outcome in crucial swing states this fall. The president has more support in the Hispanic community than Romney in national polls, but has alienated some segments of the group that have not supported the administration's record-high deportations.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a national co-chair of Romney's campaign, faulted President Obama for not pursuing comprehensive immigration reform in his first term when he had a Democratic Congress.
"He looked the American people in the eye when he ran last time and promised that he would do his version of comprehensive immigration reform in his first term," Pawlenty said on the "This Week" roundtable. "He had the full run of the table, and he failed to get it done, like he's failed to get so much else done."
Pawlenty said that Romney also supports a solution for children of illegal immigrants, but said Latino voters won't be "duped" to vote for the president because of the immigration change, saying they will also consider the state of the economy.
"Governor Romney has said, look, obviously, we need to find a reasonable solution for children who come to this country through no fault of their own," Pawlenty said. "But when you have a president who didn't do it when he could have, in those first two years, Latino and Hispanic voters aren't going to be … duped twice."
Plouffe dismissed the critiques of the policy change, and added that the president's actions last week are not intended to be a permanent solution. He called for Congress to take further action on the DREAM Act, which would allow children who came with parents to the U.S. illegally to remain in the country if pursuing higher education or military service.
"It's ironic coming from Governor Romney, who said he would veto the DREAM Act, whose immigration policy during the primary seemed to consist of just sending 11 million people home, asking them to self-deport," Plouffe said. "So we still need a permanent fix. The president would sign the DREAM Act tomorrow, the next day, the day after that. That's ultimately the only way to fix this, is for congressional action. But in the interim, this is a smart step by the Homeland Security Department."