OTR Interviews

Is Pres. Obama selectively enforcing the law, violating his oath?

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales explains his reaction to the administration's decision to stop deporting younger illegal immigrants

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 18, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Did President Obama violate his oath of office? Former Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says the answer may be yes. He's raising red flags about President Obama's new executive order on immigration. The order would spare thousands of young illegal immigrants brought here by their parents from deportation. Former Attorney General Gonzales joins us. Good evening, sir.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good evening, Greta. How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. Tell me your thoughts on the president's signing of this executive order and what is your problem with it?

GONZALES: Well, my problem is it's a temporary fix for a very complicated situation. I think most people will say that we need to have comprehensive immigration reform and we need something that cannot be undone by the next president or by the next Congress.

You know, prosecutors, as you know, have a great deal of discretion in making charging decisions based upon charging policy, based upon circumstances, based upon law enforcement priorities and resources. But generally you don't exclude an entire class of individuals from being subject to the law.

And I think in this particular case President Obama had put himself in the Pentagon where he is subject to criticism, that he is ignoring the role of Congress by ignoring the law and that potentially an argument can be made that he's violated his oath of office to make sure that the laws are faithfully executed.

But from my perspective, what's really important here is the importance to try to look at immigration reform or something that's absolutely crucial for our country. And I'm hopeful that at least this action is going to be a catalyst for discussion and debate and it's going to move the Congress and move the president, whoever the president is after this election, to focus on comprehensive immigration reform.

VAN SUSTEREN: You raise a very interesting issue among many issues, but one is this issue of prosecutorial discretion, because prosecutors, as you and I both know every day of the week they decisions on what to prosecute or not. Oftentimes it might be because it's a petty crime and we simply don't have the resources to pick up every person who committed every single crime.

I suppose what makes this different is it's a presidential pronouncement and executive order and excludes an entire class of people, an entire group, and we haven't seen prosecutorial discretion exercised like that. That's the first question.

The second question is that it is done now, six months out from the election, when something he laid out a much more comprehensive plan in July of 2010 when he had the house and the Senate and the White House, and it fell on deaf ears. So that makes it a little bit suspicious.

GONZALES: No question about it. The timing is very peculiar. The question is on record speaking to a Hispanic audience, telling the Hispanic audience that he had no authority to do what they wanted which was to suspend deportations without changing the constitution. And now suddenly he finds he has the authority, so the timing, of course, one can only conclude that is in order to try to gather support within the Hispanic community.

Listen, with respect to prosecutorial resources, I understand and I agree that resources should be allocated first to the most serious crimes. But again, when you suspend the enforcement of a law to entire classes of individuals, that is going to subject the president, as we're witnessing here, to criticism that, in fact, he is ignoring the law, ignoring the role of Congress.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any way this can be reviewed? What's the vehicle for this executive order?

GONZALES: I don't think so. I think to the extent it's reviewable, it's going to be reviewable in the court of public opinion, quite frankly. Greta, my hope is we're talking about it tonight, we're talking about innocent kids which, by the way, I do support the intent of what the president was trying to do here. I do believe that these children should not pay for the sins of their parents. What I have a problem with is the way in which the president did it.

I also have a problem in that what the president did does not address the issue of providing additional border security, does not discourage workers from hiring undocumented immigrants, does not deal with visa over- stayers. So from my perspective it is wet short of what we need -- well short of what we need to deal with our immigration challenges. And I'm concerned that this action while maybe well intentioned in terms of helping these kids is going to relieve the pressure to pursue a very difficult comprehensive solution.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I'll take it one step further. The fact that we have a House, a Senate, Republicans, Democrats, this administration or any administrations, we all know this is a very serious problem. And unless people sort of work on solutions, we're only going to discuss it every four years when it comes upon election times and everyone wants the Hispanic vote.

GONZALES: No question about it. And I understand how tough this is because it affects our national security, it affects our foreign policy, it affects facilities, it affects economic policies. But we elect our leaders in Washington to deal with these kinds of issues. Only they have the ability to develop a very smart comprehensive plan that's going to make measuring safer, and it's going to complement our economic policies. It's time for Republicans and Democrats to come together and find common ground on the difficult issue on behalf of the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: They asked for the job, so they should do it. They should come up with a resolution.

Judge, thank you. Nice to see you.

GONZALES: Thank you, Greta.