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Boehner's preparing to sue Obama again — over immigration

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  1. Speaker of the House John Boehner said on Tuesday that he's moving closer toward suing President Obama over his executive actions on immigration.
  2. According to National Journal, House Republicans will vote on a resolution that would allow Congress to join the existing lawsuit that 26 states have filed against Obama, or file its own lawsuit against the president.
  3. The lawsuit is expected to allege that the program President Obama announced last fall, which would grant protection from deportation to unauthorized immigrant parents of US citizens and permanent residents, goes beyond his legal authority.
  4. It's not clear whether the lawsuit will also claim that the president's existing "deferred action" program for young unauthorized immigrants (which has been around since 2012) is illegal.

What's the difference between targeting both programs and just targeting the new set of executive actions?

It's hard to argue that the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has granted protection from deportation to about 600,000 unauthorized immigrants, is an acceptable use of presidential authority, but the new deferred-action program wouldn't be. After all, they both follow the same model: unauthorized immigrants who meet certain requirements will be able to apply for temporary protection, and have to renew that protection every few years. Any of the legal criticisms that apply to the new program apply to the existing one as well.

But the DACA program wasn't controversial when it was first announced — it's only become politically controversial in retrospect, as Obama started contemplating (and eventually took) executive action to give relief to a broader set of unauthorized immigrants. So the GOP didn't sue Obama in 2012, or even in 2014, over the existing program.

Suing him now over both programs would raise the question of why Congress is only now taking legal action over something that's been going on for years, if it really thinks it's such a dire threat to the Constitution. That's relevant to the GOP's legal case, and it's relevant to the politics of the issue as well — since the DACA program was pretty broadly popular when it was rolled out. (Polls are mixed on the new executive action. Depending on how the question is asked, Americans either favor letting Obama's actions stand — by amargin of 15 percentage points — or want it to be blocked, also by a margin of 15 percentage points.)