Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said Thursday the state will consider suing the federal government to stop President Barack Obama’s new immigration policies from taking effect.
In a statement, Pence—a possible candidate in the GOP presidential primary in 2016—said state officials are evaluating Obama’s executive action, which is meant to defer deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants while focusing more law enforcement efforts on blocking or expelling illegal felons or gang members.
“The state of Indiana will carefully evaluate the details of the executive order and take any available legal actions necessary to restore the rule of law and proper balance to our constitutional system of government,” Pence said in a statement after Obama addressed the nation.
Pence was among several governors who said Thursday they were considering legal action against the federal government, and he was one of several Indiana elected officials who raised questions about the president’s executive order.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement the order appears to violate the "Take Care Clause" of the Constitution that prohibits suspension of laws. He said that’s because the order “declares, on a blanket basis, that a whole category of undocumented individuals qualifies for exemption from deportation—rather than exercising executive discretion, issuing clemencies or granting pardons on a case-by-case basis.”
And Rep. Susan Brooks—a Republican and former U.S. attorney—said in a statement, “We must now explore both legislative and legal options to ensure the White House does not exceed its constitutional authority.”
White House officials say they are confident he did not. In a prime time speech Thursday night, Obama assured the American public that he had the authority to impose new immigration rules—steps he said he originally sought to avoid by trying to work with Congress on a bipartisan compromise.
“But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as president—the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me—that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just,” Obama said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate approved an immigration bill supported by the president, but it died in the House. Still, Pence said Obama has no right to bypass Congress because he doesn’t like the outcome.
He called Obama’s actions “an unacceptable end run around the democratic process” that “must be reversed.”
“The proper place to debate immigration policy is through the legislative process defined in our Constitution,” Pence said.
But not all Hoosiers were frustrated by the president’s actions. Obama drew praise from the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, which said the nation’s “outdated and broken immigration system that has torn Indiana families apart for decades.”
The group invited clergy and immigrants to a party Thursday to watch the president’s address. Afterward, Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin said that “a significant percentage of people in our congregations who are undocumented live in families with both U.S. citizenship and legal status.”
“Protecting children from getting separated from their parents, husbands from wives should be a sacred act and extension of our ministries,” he said. “We applaud the president’s action as consistent with the family values guiding our country.”
But even some Democrats said Obama had gone too far. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, said in a statement that while the nation’s immigration system is broken, “only Congress has the ability to change the law to fix it.”
“I am as frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job,” he said. “But the president shouldn’t make such significant policy changes on his own.”