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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Obama Lays Out Immigration Plan; Discussion of the President's Action; Republicans Deem Presidential Executive Order on Immigration as Unconstitutional; Record Snowfall in Western New York; Michael Brown's Parents Not Consulted With by Prosecutor McCulloch
Aired November 20, 2014 - 19:55 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Welcome to a special edition of AC360.
We are in Washington, where in just a few minutes, President Obama is going to address the nation, telling Americans what steps he is taking as chief executive that it will affect millions of immigrants who are in this country illegally -- steps the White House believes are within any president's power but others are describing in apocalyptic terms, with some lawmakers warning of impeachment, criminal charges, government shutdown, defunding, violence in the streets in some cases.
That was before we began hearing the president was planning to go even bigger than most everyone thought.
Jim Acosta is getting those late details at the White House. Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill.
Jim, let's start with you. What are you hearing now?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, senior administration officials insist this is not amnesty, there is no path to citizenship in the president's executive action. Instead, the policy rush on beefed up enforcement and some prosecutorial discretion and delaying deportations for 5 million undocumented immigrants.
Here is the plan, according to senior administration officials. Administration officials say undocumented parents of U.S. citizens, illegal residents who have been in the country for five years get what's called deferred action, meaning they won't be deported. Also covered under the president's plan: an expanded number of children who are brought to the country illegally, those so-called DREAMers.
Now, here is where it gets interesting. The Department of Homeland Security is launching a new enforcement program that targets undocumented felons and what the administration calls recent border crossers as in people who crossed the border since January 2014.
All other undocumented immigrants take lower priority status for deportations. That means immigration authorities essentially will not be coming for them, and to those Republican critics who say the president is overreaching, Mr. Obama will say tonight, pass a bill -- Anderson. COOPER: But, Jim, I mean, for years the president said and in multiple different locations and there's plenty of tape of it, that he does not have the power to do this. What changed?
ACOSTA: What changed, Anderson, the White House says, and they don't believe the president has changed his tune on this, but obviously he has if you look at those various videos, they say that the president has given the Republican Party plenty of time. That they saw a bipartisan bill pass out of the Senate and that the House GOP has essentially said they're not going to bring it up. So, the president is going to do as much as he can under the law that is in that bill over the next several months, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks.
As we said at the top, as Jim just mentioned, the very notion of President Obama taking executive action on this has provoked sharp reaction from Republicans. Mr. Obama's old friend and colleague, GOP Senator Tom Coburn is warning of possible anarchy, violence, actual physical violence in the wake of it. Others are promising the legislative variety.
Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill where the president's move has made quite a few waves to say the least.
A lot of Republicans right now are very unhappy about this move from the president. What's the latest you're hearing tonight?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Words like emperor, like imperial president, overreach, arrogant, and even one saying the president is declaring war on America and on democracy. Those are the kinds of statements that we're already getting.
And it's kind of double pronged outrage, Anderson. It is about the way he is going about this, doing it without Congress. But also what he is doing, because a lot of Republicans say that this is exactly what is wrong with the system, even suggesting that nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants can stay legally is going to encourage more illegal immigrants to come across the border -- Anderson.
COOPER: Dana, we'll check in with you after the president's speech.
I want to bring in chief political analyst Gloria Borger and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper.
Jake, is this much different than what many presidents have done in the past using executive actions? That's what the Democrats are saying is, look, plenty of presidents have used executive actions before.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDET: Well, there's a long list of executive actions that the White House points to in saying that this is not all that unique, and it ranges in pardons for Hungarians by Eisenhower, all the way through pardons for Cuban doctors by George W. Bush. But the truth is if you look at all of this, nothing has been as big.
And many of the actions that the White House points to have been attached to legislation that has been passed.
I'm not saying -- I'm no lawyer, so I'm not an expert on whether or not this is legal, but it is different and it certainly is more expansive.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALSYT: You know, it is political, though, Anderson. There's no --
BORGER: There's no doubt about it. Look, this is a president talking to people in the administration saying we realize we've got 26 months left. We understand what occurred in this election, but they believe they've been very strong on deportation, on border enforcement, and that this is something that was handed to the House of Representatives. The House did nothing.
COOPER: And no coincidence, he's going to Nevada tomorrow to talk about it side by side with Harry Reid.
COOPER: It's 8:00 p.m. here in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers just tuning in across country and around the world. In about a minute from now, President Obama will speak from the east room of the White House laying out executive action he plans on taking immigration. He will be doing a lot of things that a majority of Americans say they want done. And acting without Congress, however, he'll be doing them in a way fewer Americans say they're comfortable with. And now that he's about to get rid for the political fallout and get ready for some real changes in millions of people's lives.
There's a lot to cover tonight, a lot to talk about. Helping us tonight Jake Tapper is here, Gloria Borger, our collection of the brains, partisan and nonpartisan alike.
Right now, though, I want to bring in my friend and colleague, Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a huge night for the president of the United States, a huge night potentially for five million people who are living here in the United States right now living here illegally. The president is going to take this unilateral action to encourage them to come out of the shadows, to go ahead and register themselves and at least be allowed to stay temporarily here in the United States.
The president, as you know, is coming under enormous criticism from so many Republicans. Part of the president's speech tonight will be design to declare that he does have the legal authority to go ahead and do what he is about it to do. We're about to see the president walking in. That's the cross hall over at the White House.
The president will go into the east room. He will deliver this speech. We expect it to be about ten minutes or so, maybe 12 minutes, around that time. No audience. He will look into the camera. He will address the American people.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, tonight I'd like to talk with you about immigration.
For more than 200 years our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It's kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities. People not trapped by our past but able to remake ourselves as we choose.
But today our immigration system is broken and everybody knows it. Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others plot (ph) the rules. Business owners who are for the workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less.
All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows or risk their families being torn apart.
It's been this way for decades. And for decades we haven't done much about it. When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders.
Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although, this summer there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it's been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.
Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix. And last year 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn't perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes and went to the back of the line.
And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits. Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill, a simple yes or no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties. And today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refuse d to allow that simple vote. Now, I continue to believe the best way to solve the problem is by
working together to pass that kind of common sense law. 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.
Tonight, I'm announcing those actions.
First, we'll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over.
Second, I'll make it easier and fast faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy as so many business leaders proposed.
Third, we'll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already had live in our country.
I want to say more about this third issue because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we're a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. That's why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that's why we're going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security.
Felons, not families, criminals, not children, gang members, not a mom who is working hard to provide for her kids. We'll prioritize, just like law e enforcement does every day. But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally.
And let's be honest, tracking down, rounding up and deporting millions of people isn't realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn't being straight with you. It's also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard often in tough, low paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of the kids are American born who spent most of their lives here and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours. As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it, they are a part of American life.
Now, here is the thing. We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we're going to off the following deal.
If you've with been in America more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents, if you register, pass a criminal background check and you're willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That's what this deal is. Now, let's be clear about what it isn't. This deal does not apply to
anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently or offer the same benefits citizens receive, only Congress can do that.
All we're saying is we're not going to deport you. I know some of the critics of the action call it amnesty. Well, it's the not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today. Millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That's the real amnesty. Leaving this broken system the way it is.
Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I'm describing is accountability, a common sense middle ground a approach. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you're a criminal, you'll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.
The actions I'm taken are not only lawful, they're the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single democratic president for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer. Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.
Meanwhile, don't let a disagreement over a single issue be a deal breaker on every issue. That's not how our democracy works and Congress certainly shouldn't shut down our government again because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs right now is a common purpose, a higher purpose.
Most Americans support the type of reforms I've talked about tonight, but I understand with the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don't like the notion anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship.
I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are or take our jobs or stick it to middle class families at a time they already feel they've gotten a raw deal for over a decade. I hear those concerns, but that's not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it's important all of us have this debate without impugning each other's character.
Because for all the back and forth in Washington, we have to remember this debate is about something bigger. It's about who we are a country and who we want to be for future generations. Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a nation where workers
who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future? Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents' arms, or are we a nation that values families and works together to keep them together? Are we a nation that educates the world's best and brightest in our universities only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America.
That's what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration. We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes not our fears.
I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it.
Over the past years I've seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government and at risk any moment of losing it all just to build a better life for their kids. I've seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn't have the right papers. I've seen the courage of students who except for the circumstances of their birth are as American as Malia or Sasha, students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love.
These people, our neighbors, our classmates, our friends. They did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work and study and serve in our military. And, above all, contribute to American success.
Now tomorrow I'll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was 4-years-old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and a frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn't speak any English. Shea caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS. And she became a good student.
Her father worked in landscaping. Her mom cleaned other people's homes. They wouldn't let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school, not because they didn't love her but because they were afraid the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant. So she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows.
Until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away and she couldn't travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she began advocating for herself and others like her. And today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.
Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid? Or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us we shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.
My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forbearers were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look at, what our last names are, or how we worship.
What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an idea that all of us are created equal and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That's the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That's the tradition we must uphold. That's the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless this country we love.
BLITZER: So there he is, the president of the United States, making a case to allow some five million people living here in the United States illegally at least for now to have temporary legal status, no longer having to worry about being deported immediately and to come out of the shadows, as he says five million of the approximately 11 million or 12 million people who are in the United States undocumented.
The president saying to Congress, go ahead. Pass legislation that I can sign into law. In the meantime, he makes the legal case that he has the authority to do what he's doing. And he says he knows there will be anger. He appeals to members of Congress, the Republicans specifically, to work with him on other issues despite the anger that will be generated by what he did during his 15-minute address tonight.
There's going to be a lot of commotion as a result of this, Anderson, and we will watch it every step of the way.
COOPER: No doubt about it.
And we have a lot to talk about in the hour ahead. Joining us is the CNN commentator, Republican strategist Ana Navarro, Senior political commentator and former White House press secretary Jay Carney, CNN political commentator and former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Donna Brazile, also CNN commentator and Democratic strategist.
Donna, the White House says the president has the right to do this. It is essentially prosecutorial discretion. Republicans say you are basically rewriting the law by -- I mean, it's not just discretion of who not to arrest, who not deport, it is changing the law.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, like Gloria, I am not a lawyer. But I like to play one on television.
I think the president has laid it out just right. He said, look, I want to secure the border. I want to make sure that those who are unauthorized immigrants are able to have a process by which they're held accountable. And, of course, the deportation of those who are here, criminals, terrorists, et cetera. So border security to continue to enforce that. But, also, he's working within the same framework that every president since President Eisenhower. So I think he made the right decision and now the ball is in Congress' court to finish the job.
COOPER: Well, Speaker Gingrich, what about that? I mean, the president said to those in Congress who oppose him, pass a bill. If you don't like it, pass a bill.
NEWT GINGRICH, CNN HOST, CROSSFIRE: First of all, it's not the president's right to dictate with the newly elected Congress that has repudiated his policies in the election. Second, this is a Gruber speech. This is vastly more than prosecutorial. And he is simply not telling the country the truth. He's setting up an entire system in homeland security. They are going to have an entire process. They are going to put thousands of bureaucrats to work trying to find a way, though, in effect, legalize behavior and to describe that as prosecutorial discretion is absolutely dishonest and this is a very dishonest speech.
COOPER: So do you think it is going to bring even more people to this country illegally?
GINGRICH: Every time it's been done in the past it has. Look at the historic record. Every speech like this including things he said which led to the children coming last summer, every speech like this is broadcast worldwide. There are 160 million people according to the Gallup poll worldwide who would like to come to the U.S., 160 million. And now, look at the poll. Wait for the next amnesty.
COOPER: Jay Carney, what about that? I mean, the president all along had said he didn't have the power to do this in the past.
JAY CARNEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Anderson, I remember it because I was a reporter covering then governor George W. Bush in the 2000 campaign when Jake was on that campaign as well. And he would stand in front of essentially all-white audiences and say something that was relatively uncomfortable in front of those audience, in which that he believed family values did not stop at the Rio Grande. And that was part of his argument. Its audience that they did always supported that immigration reform was actually necessary.
And it's not just necessary because it's morally the right thing to do. It's necessary because we have a broken system where the law itself is constantly being undermined by the presence of undocumented people in the country who live in the shadows and undermine our economic systems and undermine system across, health care and education. So something has to be done.
The president made a strong effort and got a bill through Congress with Republican support. And he negotiated. I was there. He worked with and he talked with and he cajoled and he pleaded with Republican leaders in the House to follow the Senate's lead to write their own bill that was similar to the Senate's including things that he, you know, would have a hard time dealing with but would accept. And they said they would, and they said they would, and then they refused. And in the end, they refused because most Republicans, as Newt knows,
in the House are in districts with no Latinos or very few Latinos and it's not in their political interest to deal with the problem even though it is very much in the Republican party's interest nationally to deal with this.
COOPER: But this does contradict what the president himself has said repeatedly? And want to just play some of his past comments right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that's just not the case.
I can't do it by myself. We are going to have to change laws in Congress.
The notion that somehow by myself I can go and do these things is just not true.
What I've said is there's a path to get this done and that's through Congress.
I'm the president of the United States. I'm not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And of course now some Republicans are saying he's acting like an emperor. What has changed? I mean, I get why he want to do it. He's frustrated. But from his own standpoint.
CARNEY: When he was making those statements, he was essentially arguing he cannot change the law. He cannot provide a path to citizenship as a president, and that's not what he's done today. But I grant you the fact -- he was going out on a limb trying to make it clear to supporters of immigration reform that it was important to put pressure on Congress to get a bill done because that was the better solution.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Let me tell you what's changed. Can we just be clear here and get off the talking points and talk straight with the American people.
What has changed that he's no longer a candidate. This is a politically unpopular action. A lot of people, most Americans, agree with comprehensive immigration reform, but don't want it done by fiat. Herein lies the difference.
Today, we've already seen that every single election that is going to happen during his term whether he's on the ballot or not has occurred. He is no longer a candidate. And he's made a lot of promises to the Latino community since he was candidate Barack Obama in 2007 that he had not delivered on and they were very frustrated.
And I think, you know, Congressman Luis Gutierrez was about to go chain himself to the White House fence, dog or no dog. So I think he had run out of rope. He knew it. I think he wants to fulfill it to the Latino community when he was able to and when he should have. Those first two years of the administration, he didn't do it. So the bottom line here is --
COOPER: He is also probably Democrats in 2016.
NAVARRO: The Democrats could have done it those first two years of his administration and Republicans could have done it in the last year. And the truth that we need to tell the American people is that neither of them did it, and that's what brought us to this point.
COOPER: And Donna, Democrats could have done it.
BRAZILE: You know, it helps -- the truth on the table, it helps a lot of families. And also a lot of families who are here, who are trying to do right. They want to be Americans. They want to stay in this country. They want a path to be legal citizens.
This will not solve the problem. That's why Congress has the world. Congress has had 512 days to act on a bipartisan bill, 68 to 32, and they refused. There are 200 votes right now. Speaker Boehner, the light is still on. I checked before I got here. Speaker Boehner could take a bill up before tomorrow. But they refuse to take a bill up. So, this president has acted within the legal limitations of the law.
GINGRICH: Look. Just two facts. One, the constitution doesn't say the president should obey the law until he gets frustrated. Now, the president's argument is, I was patient for a long time. But who is he to be patient? The constitution is a larger system in which he's one piece.
Two, in Oregon, hardly a red state, the voters voted 66-34 to repeal a law to give illegal immigrants driver's licenses. People, I think in the elites, really underestimate how deeply this country is disgusted with no border control. But despite the president's speech tonight with the sense there's going to be another wave of people coming in on top of this. And the idea this president having just been decisively defeated three weeks ago can turn around and ram down what he wants to do.
BRAZILE: Solitary that he had a deport of two million people, they have been sent home.
GINGRICH: That's the law.
BRAZILE: That's what I am saying.
NAVARRO: You bring up a very good point because for the last years, he has been saying he doesn't have authority to do what he just did now. And in the process, in the meantime, two million people, two million families, have been separated. What does he say to those two million families watching from somewhere else separated from their families when for the last two years he's been saying I cannot do what I'm doing now?
CARNEY: I want to address a point here because I hear the speaker and I hear others on the Republican side saying this is illegal, it is unconstitutional.
What you don't hear is legal e experts and constitutional experts saying that because they won't likely succeed in a legal challenge, as I think we saw earlier on CNN, and they probably know it. But they want to cast this as a general assault against the president as acting lawlessly, as an emperor because that's a little easier as an attack point than explaining why they haven't acted on this priority that the majority of the people in the country think is important.
Now, having said that, this is a big risk for the president. He has no question create add major conflict with this Congress just as it's coming into power and that could mean a lot of fights from here the next few years.
NAVARRO: There is precedent for this action. What there is not precedent for is the number covered. Frankly, it is a very large number, five million is much bigger than anything we've seen in the past. And I think that's why it's making us really sticking in everybody's craw.
COOPER: I just want to show viewers what we are looking it. This is across from the White House in Lafayette Square, a number of demonstrators outside the White House, on both sides of the issue. Where does this go from here, though?
GINGRICH: I think Ted Cruz yesterday and chairman Bob Goodloe both had pretty firm statements. I think where it's going to go to is the Congress, the new Congress when he comes in January, methodically raising the cost of the president, probably by starting with something as simple as refusing to take up any of his nominations including the attorney general and just saying we're not dealing with you. You are lawless. You are outside the game. Until you come back inside the constitution, we're not going to -- they're not going to go to a government shutdown because the news media would promptly switch and decide it's the Republicans who are a problem.
Right now, the country is about to decide it's President Obama that's the problem. And I think that is what -- by the way, the term emperor was used by Obama not by us. The fact we are quoting him may make you uncomfortable, but he brought up the word.
BRAZILE: I don't think the Republicans will risk the new majority status by trying to, I would believe, in that more gridlock and be more obstructionist. I think they will try to figure out a way with an eye to 2016 to figure out how to make some of this permanent so that they can be seen as part of the solution and that's simply more a part of the problem. COOPER: You want to look at the polls because I mean, as I mentioned
a moment ago, I mentioned it a moment, a poll show the dichotomy of President Obama's actions. Recent "wall Street Journal"/NBC News polling shows a majority, 57 percent, favor or strongly favor a pathway to citizenship for people in this country illegally.
However, as Ana mentioned, 38 percent, only 38 percent approve of President Obama acting alone without Congress on the issue of immigration.
I want to bring in chief political analyst Gloria Borger and chief Washington correspondent, host of "the LEAD" Jake Tapper.
Gloria, what happens now?
BORGER: Well, I think that the public is going to start taking sides on this, as Newt was saying, and I think there's a danger here of both sides overreaching. I mean, you have the president now who has laid down the law and said I think this is a decision that will drive the tem graphics of the 2016 election.
I think they, the Democrats, have decided a way to get the Obama coalition together without President Obama is not to have lukewarm support from Latinos. I think is important to them. I don't think we can overstate it. It's huge.
I think the Republicans have a problem here of overreaching. Because there are some Republicans who would shut down the government over this. And who would keep all appointments from going through including the attorney general as Newt Gingrich just pointed out. And I think the public could react to that, also, and say, wait a minute, we don't like that. And I do think the public believes that the president should not go it alone. What we've to see is whether they buy his argument that he had no other choice.
COOPER: Well, Jake, (INAUDIBLE), I mean, the next president can overturn this executive order.
TAPPER: That's right. I do want it to make one note that Gloria just said which is, I think it remains an open question whether or not a government shutdown is going to hurt Republicans. We saw it was bad for them in the polls a year ago and then they took control of the Senate and increased the majority in the House. But it is an open question, obviously, short term it's bad. Long term I don't know that there's actually a price.
In terms of how much Republican president, if the next one is Republican over current is, I find that very, very unlikely in our system. It is very easy for President to give things or for Congress to give things. It is very, very difficult to take things away.
And I think I'm sure it will be a big debate in Republican primaries whether or not this executive order should be overturned, but I am guessing that you'll hear some of the more establishment candidates talk about the need for a big comprehensive bill and the way to look at all of the people in this country illegally and not necessarily doing it. Because Republicans know and Speaker Gingrich, who was giving a very strong statement this evening against what President Obama is doing, but he was one of the people who was talking about the need for a comprehensive immigration reform, him and Governor Rick Perry and a few others on that stage. So I do think that the Republican establishment, and I hope you're not offended that I include you in that to a degree, Speaker Gingrich, acknowledges that more long term there needs to be some sort of comprehensive bill for policy reasons and also because of political reasons.
COOPER: But - let me speak to Gingrich, do you see that happening in the next two years at all?
GINGRICH: I wouldn't be surprised. First of all, I've never believed you can pass a single comprehensive bill. I think it was too big and it collapses under its own weight. I would not be surprised to see four or five bills (INAUDIBLE) produced by the Republicans in the House and Senate that move us in the right direction. Very few Americans believe that it's healthy to have millions of people operating in the gray zone, who are outside the law but in fact are trying to be law abiding. Not criminals, they are just people who, you know, don't fit inside our current legal structure.
So, I think that will be worked on. But I would not underestimate, (INAUDIBLE) there is a huge difference in the two parties. The number of Republicans who actually believe in the federalist papers and the Constitution and are in politics because of their belief is very deep. And those people, I think, the Tom Coburn comment, the Lamar Smith comment, are signals. Those people are enormously offended and frightened by a president who they see as uncontrollable and outside the Constitution.
COOPER: I want to bring in Congressman Steve King, Republican of Iowa. He's obviously very outspoken on this issue. Congressman King, thank you for joining us. I know Jake and Gloria also are going to join in with some questions. But I wonder what you heard from the president, what you think about it, and what you believe. You've laid out three steps that you believe the Republican Party should take now. Are you still convinced that's the way to go? Explain what the steps are.
REP. STEVE KING (R) IOWA: I am and I just have this sickening (ph) feeling in my stomach about the situation that the president has thrown this nation into. We have a fresh feeling coming off an election. The president knows what he's doing. 22 times he says - he said that he doesn't have the power to do this and yet he stepped out and did this anyway. It's hard to make a clear, concise constitutional argument on this given what the president has given us because they're just vague descriptions. Such as if you are a criminal, you will be deported. We know that's not true. The criminals are not going to be deported. Those who cross the border illegally have committed a crime, by definition, those who have committed document fraud, they've committed a crime and most of them a felony by definition. They are not going to be punished under all of this, so this is ...
COOPER: When the president says this is prosecutorial discretion, when the White House says the president can do this because of prosecutorial discretion, do you buy that?
KING: (INAUDIBLE) expression, no. I promised Janet Napolitano that we would take her to court when they brought out the Morton Memos in DACA, and that said seven times on out the Morton Memos document that - it said seven times on an individual basis only. They did that because they knew they had to argue that prosecutorial discretion is exclusively on an individual basis. He created four classes of people with that document. These are classes of people, too. He has no constitutional authority to do this. That resides in the Congress. This is a constitutional crisis and I listened to all the humanitarian discussion.
What about the rule of law? What about some compassion for the rule of law and the Constitution? This Republic and the vision of our founders, this is a crisis. And we have some options in the House. The first thing would be a resolution of disapproval that lays this out. We've to get a better look at the documents that will drive this first. The second one could potentially - could be a censure for the president of the United States, that's not happened in more than a century, and that would be at least a direct message to the president. The third thing would be to cut off the funding. I want to fund this government, I want to keep this government open, but if they ask me to vote for an appropriations bill that funds an unconstitutional act on the part of the president of the United States, I'm bound by my oath as he should have been bound by his.
COOPER: Congressman, hold on. I just want to bring in Jay Carney. Jay, do you want to respond to anything the congressman said?
CARNEY: Well, look I think that - and I do not doubt that the congressman and others have deeply held views on this issue and are passionate about it and that they passionately disagree with the president. I think I would defer to what I've seen, which is a pretty large consensus among legal scholars and lawyers on the issue that there is ample precedent for this legally, and that the efforts to try to attack this as a constitutional issue are not going to succeed, at least not in the courts. They may succeed or they may gain traction as part of the rhetorical argument, which is what we've heard a lot. And I guess I'm encouraged by at least hearing from Congressman King that we're not hearing some of the more inflammatory language as we've heard from other Republicans who I think, you know, get a little disservice when they start talking about violence ...
COOPER: Let me ask you, Congressman, about that, because ...
CARNEY: ... and retribution and anarchy or impeachment.
COOPER: Well, Congressman, you were on Jake Tapper's program, I believe it was yesterday. You said that impeachment would be the very last option but you, quote, would not rule it out. Where do you stand on that exactly?
KING: Well, that's - I've said this to my colleagues many times and to the press over the last couple of weeks. I would like to start with the most minimal thing we can do to put the president back into the constitutional guardrails and then step it up. That's why I say, a resolution approval, the second would be a censure. Third would be to cut out of the appropriations bills funds that would fund this. That's the progressive effort at this, moving forward. But I don't want to do the last thing. I don't want to do the "I" word. Nobody wants to throw the nation into that kind of turmoil. The president has thrown us into this situation, and now there are 535 members of Congress who have all taken an oath to also uphold the Constitution and because he won't do his constitutional duty and he's defying his own oath to the constitution and the rule of law, we are bound then to keep our oath to the Constitution. That's my view on this, and I'd like to be able to look at the language and get closer on how this will be executed.
But I believe that he will be using parole to parole people into the United States. If he does, that a year away with that, you get a green card, that's a fast track to citizenship. These kind of things will unfold over the next 24 hours and we'll have a better look at what's going on here. But the president is not in charge of writing law. That's article one, and I fear what he has done is torn article one out of the Constitution, put it into his own pocket and said I'm now the legislative branch, too.
COOPER: I want to bring in Jake and Gloria.
BORGER: Congressman, Gloria Borger. Can you just tell me the mood of your caucus and whether you believe that this has poisoned the well for anything else that either you or the president might want to get done over the next couple of years?
KING: You know, I wish I had a definitive answer to that. I can feel that - I can feel that rejection boiling up here. It's not to a boiling point. The president picked the time that the most planes that were leaving town out of Dallas and Reagan to go back to the districts had already taken off. There are only about two or three of us left here in town. But I've been raising this issue with my colleagues since June and July. I didn't see their temperature going up the way I thought it should have. They had trouble dealing with the hypotheticals, maybe trouble believing the president would actually do this. Now I think that people are home. That may be a mistake for the president to time this this way. Because they'll be going to some town hall meetings, they'll be hearing from their constituents. And if America boils over, so will the United States House of Representatives.
TAPPER: Congressman King, it's Jake Tapper. I wanted to ask you if - what your feelings were when George H.W. Bush took a smaller scale -- or rather, actually, it was actually the same percentage of people who are in the country illegally, but the number was significantly less. It was about 1.5 million illegal immigrants, undocumented workers, whatever you want to call them, who were family members of those who had been in the pipeline through the '86 immigration bill. My point is being there is some precedent for this. Did you object to that at the time?
KING: You know, I saw that pop up in the news today and yesterday. And I have not gone back to review that and I'm wondering what I was doing at the time. But I do remember what I was doing in 1986 when Ronald Reagan signed the Amnesty Act and there is a dent in my filing cabinet from that day because I knew that Ronald Reagan had let us down when he signed the law. We then would have to set about restoring the rule of law, at least with regard to immigration. We surely haven't done that. The promise of the next amnesty, the next amnesty has eroded the rule of law and that is our chart. We have got to put the rule of law back together.
If we let this stand, I can't see that we could ever put the rule of law back together with regard to immigration. Not in my lifetime. Not in the lifetime of most Americans, and that's a tragedy if we're not able to do this. So that's why the House has to take a strong stand and why the Senate, I think Senate Republicans, will take a strong stand to restore the rule of law. That's the most important thing, respect the Constitution, restore the rule of law. The humanitarian issues, we all have a heart for that and it's been contributed to by multiple presidents from Ronald Reagan on. And I want to see it put back together. I was raised in a law enforcement family with great respect for the Constitution. If we don't have a law, we don't have a border.
And by the way, this order says if you haven't -- if you came within the last five years, you're not established so we're not going to cover you under it. But what happens to that group? What happens to those that pack their bags tonight that are on their way to the border now? There is no prospect that there's going to be enforcement of the laws in the future, there'll be more and more coming into the United States because of this order. And I'm going to the border tomorrow to witness some of it.
COOPER: Congressman King, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
I do want to focus on talking about the law, I do want to focus to look at the constitutional question that has been raised here. Question President Obama tonight said it's simply not in any doubt. Here is what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The actions I'm taking are not only lawful, they're the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting when Congress has failed, I have one answer. Pass a bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining us now, someone who has advised the president on some of the higher stake legal issues of our time including separation of powers, Alberto Gonzalez, who served as attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, he's also written a book on the question of immigration called "A Conservative and Compassionate Approach to Immigration Reform."
Mr. Attorney General, thanks for being with us. Some Republican critics of the president are calling this executive action unconstitutional, illegal. We just heard from Congressman King there. Do you agree? Is it unconstitutional and illegal?
ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, I'm not prepared to say that it is lawful but, you know, the president's own words really condemn him when you think about the several times ...
COOPER: What does that mean? You're not prepared to say it's lawful? So is it unlawful?
GONZALES: Well, listen, this is very difficult -- from my perspective without saying the details of the plan, I think it's a rather complicated question. Because while he does have the duty to take care of the laws be enforced, he also has a discretion in the way the laws are enforced. And so, it's really going to be a matter of degree in terms of whether or not is what he's doing here a suspension? Is it a repeal? Is it an amendment of the law? Because the closer you get to that, and I think it's much harder to defend it.
But from my perspective, I think the timing of this is terrible for the president based upon his public statements in the past, that he doesn't have the authority to do that. Based upon the fact that we have got a new Congress here and rather than waiting to work with this new Congress, he takes this action now and he takes this action right after an election.
If, in fact, he had this authority, he could have taken it before the election. But we know that he didn't do that for political reasons. And so for all those reasons I just think this is a bad way to move forward with this. I think we all agree we need to fix the system. And I think we all agree the best way to do it -- I do agree with the president's comments tonight that the best way to do this is through a comprehensive immigration bill, and I'm hopeful that this will at least motivate the Congress to take action because, in fact, they should take action. We've waited long enough for the Congress to do something.
COOPER: So when the president said tonight, you know, if you don't like what just went down, pass a bill, you actually agree that they should pass a bill?
GONZALES: No question about it. And that will obviously, that will negate any kind of executive action by the president, but we need a long-term solution and it really is a shame that we've had to wait for so long because this has been a burden sitting on the plate of Congress for quite some time and the problem has gotten worse and worse. The burden upon the states have grown heavier. And this is an issue that, again, affects our economy, it affects our national security, and it is the job of Congress to deal with this issue.
COOPER: I know you want to look more at the details. But when the White House says that essentially every other president has done this, or has done executive action like this, do you think that - is that true in your opinion ....
GONZALES: Well, it is certainly ...
COOPER: Or do you think that's beyond the scope of what ... GONZALES: It may be true but I'm not sure it really helps us in answering whether or not this action is lawful. Because what we're talking about, it is presidential discretion. It is. We're talking about judgment, basic on the circumstances, we are talking about the president interpreting a law, vis-a-vis what Congress has said about that law, and so the circumstances are going to be different. In each and every case with respect to whether or not a president has abuse of discretion that he has a lot - that has permitted to him by the courts and recognized by the Congress. So, all we know from what President Reagan did and what President George H.W. Bush did is that presidents have exercised discretion. Whether or not that discretion has been exercised lawfully in this case, I don't think that question can be answered by what President Reagan did or President Bush did in the past.
COOPER: Attorney General Gonzalez, I appreciate you being on. Thank you. We also have our own legal advisor and analyst, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He joins us. Clearly, you heard the former Attorney General not really wanting to say definitely until his look further at the bill - or at the executive action - Do you think the president is on firm ground in terms of the legality of what he's doing?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Anderson, I do. But think about the structure of what happened here. We have an immigration law that is -- that says certain people cannot be in the country and need to be deported. Similarly we have criminal laws that say various activities are against the law. In both of those, the courts have long recognized that had we can't apply it to everyone. You can't deport every single person who is in the country illegally. You can't prosecute everyone who has violated the law by, say, smoking marijuana. So we leave to the executive the decision of whom to deport and whom to prosecute. And this was an example tonight of the president saying, look, we are going to establish priorities. These are the people who are going to be deported first. And these are the people who are going to move to the back of the line. They're not going to be deported while Barack Obama is president. January 20, 2017, someone else can completely change these rules, but today this seems to me an exercise of what presidents have done for a long time.
COOPER: In terms of legal recourse, though, his opponents - I mean they could still go after him in a number of ways.
TOOBIN: They sure can. They can pass a new law that says the rules on deportation are different and these deportations have to resume. Clearly that could be done. They can use the power of the purse. They can say we do not authorize the use of funds for anything related to this executive order. In addition they can impeach the president. These are all options that are clearly available to Congress. I don't think they can go to court. Members of Congress have - the courts have by and large thrown out lawsuits by members of Congress against the president for basically almost any reason, but certainly there are plenty of options available to Congress if they pass laws.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, thank you very much for being with us. Also, I want to thank our panelist. We're going to be back on at 11 p.m. Eastern live with another edition of "360" where we're going to talk more about the president's speech. But there is other news to cover in this hour. In western New York the death toll from the epic snow storm rises to at least ten now as the snow just keeps getting deeper and expect to go through the weekend. Martin savage is at ground zero of the misery. We are going to go to him shortly. Plus, Michael Brown's father making a very public plea for calm in Ferguson, Missouri, for the sake of his dead son's legacy.
COOPER: Tonight in western New York the snow is only getting deeper and the danger is greater. For the past three days the region has seen nearly as much snow as it typically gets all year. Today, the snow kept on coming as much as two feat of fresh snow in some places. The storm also claimed two more lives bringing the total death toll to at least ten people. The two latest victims died overnight from apparent exposure. Now, the Bills and the Jets will not be playing on Sunday. The NFL game has been canceled. There's simply no way they would be able to dig out the stadium even if the snow were to stop right now, and it's not stopping. The weight of all that snow is putting lives at risk. Here is Martin Savidge.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The buried community south of Buffalo now face a new danger: roof collapse. Homes and buildings are beginning to buckle under the weight of snow.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: We're now going to have roof collapses, we're looking at another two to three feet of snow today and then a warming trend on the weekend which could lead to massive flooding when all this snow starts to melt.
SAVIDGE: It's not the only problem as the snow continues to fall. City crews, National Guard troops and private contractors have thrown everything they have into clearing the snow. But even now most primary routes can only be declared as passable. More snow has slowed the job. So the endless streams of cars, people, and even snowmobiles navigating the few open routes. Many side streets remain white wastelands of shoulder high snow. Here shovels and the other effective weapon, join two neighbors trying to clear a drive.
(on camera): I don't want to say this looks like an impossible task.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much. We'll get there. Got to start somewhere, right?
SAVIDGE: I guess you do. Just getting to the front door is going to be a challenge.
(voice over): The deep snow has settled making it heavier and harder to move.
(on camera): The problem you have here is the same problem the city has. Where do you put it? You can dig it up here, but it has got to go somewhere so that's on top of somebody's car. (voice over): With the snow too deep to plow, crews dig it up using giant front end loaders that carry it to waiting dump trucks. The trucks end up in long lines waiting in an old railway terminal where they dump their snowy loads and then head off for more while tractors push it around to make room. This is how it looked Wednesday, and this is how it looks a day later, a man made mountain rising stories high into the air. And city officials say, as big as it is, it's barely 20 percent of what still needs to be clear.
COOPER: Incredible that mountain was made in a day. Martin Savidge joins us now from Buffalo. Any idea how long it's going to take to clear all the roads?
SAVIDGE: You know, I talked to the commissioner just a short while ago who in charge of clearing the streets. He says probably four to five more days, but here is the rub and you already talked about it some, that warming trend. He says it's actually going to make the snow a lot heavier. It may start to melt some. Before that it's going to absorb a lot of moisture and the equipment is going to have an even greater or harder time moving it. Meanwhile, they started work on a second mountain, by the way, Anderson, so, there's not just one, but two. And they're likely to be here come July when many people are thinking not about the storm.
COOPER: Incredible. Martin Savidge, thanks very much. As Ferguson, Missouri, braces for a grand jury to decide whether to charge Officer Darrell Wilson for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown, Brown's father is urging for calm. A decision is expected as early as tomorrow although there's expected to be then our 24-hour delay before it's announced publicly - whether or not, excuse me, 48 hours. Whether or not the news will actually hold that long is not clear.
Here's a look at the public service announcement from Michael Brown's father that was released just tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BROWN SR., FATHER OF MICHAEL BROWN: Hello. My name is Michael Brown Sr. My family and I are hurting. Our whole region is hurting. I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation. But hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son's death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone. We live here together. This is our home. We are stronger united. Continue to lift your voices with us and let's work together to heal to create lasting change. For all people regardless of race. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now live our CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Mark O'Mara who represented George Zimmerman, of course, and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin. So, Sunny, you spoke to the ground family turning (INAUDIBLE) early today who said that the prosecuting attorney had not met with the family and that office had shown, no regard for their son and essentially that they've been left out of the loop. Are victims' families usually more involved in the process?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They are much more involved in the process. And that has been very striking to me how they have seemingly been left out of the loop. It is not unusual for a prosecutor seeking an indictment in the case to meet with the victim's family, Anderson, to assign a victim advocate act as a liaison. And I think if you go back to the Zimmerman case, you'll remember seeing Angela Cory standing there with Trayvon Martin's parents right behind her. They were very much a part of the process. And that is generally how it happens. And so I am somewhat surprised at what Ben Crump told me, and I'm not surprised that the family seems to be very upset with how the process is going. And Ben also said that they don't trust the process.
COOPER: Mark, I mean I should point out that the prosecuting attorney, Mr. McCulloch, fired back in a statement saying that he'd been in touch with their legal team and that at their direction, he was told, that all contact be made with the family through one of their attorneys, I believe it's Mr. Gray. I mean definitely it seems like there are two differing accounts here. That frankly, one doesn't jive with the other.
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, somebody is posturing. And that should not be happening at the case like this. If McCullough said what he said and it's untrue -- because he said that he had ongoing communications with Mr. Gray, and that was not true, that type of posturing is abhorrent for a prosecutor.
But Mr. Crump is saying that they are not in touch with the family, and they actually are in touch with the family, that's troubling as well.
COOPER: Mr. McCulloch also said, just for accuracy, that he was told that there would be a federal victim's advocate that the family wanted, not one from the state. Is that your understanding as well, Mark?
O'MARA: Yes, actually, it is and that's also what happened, in part, in the Zimmerman case as well. Because they focused more on the DOJ involvement. But as long as McCulloch made the inquiry and offer the assistance, if they want to use the federal facilities and resources, that's great. But they need to have somebody who was telling them what's going on in the prosecution's side.
COOPER: Sunny, the prosecutor has said that this grand jury would be presented with every witness, every bit of evidence. Are victims' parents ever called as grand jury witnesses? I mean if they don't have something - you know, if they did - they are not eyewitnesses to something?
HOSTIN: You know, not, not generally. If they're not eyewitnesses and they can't necessarily help the grand jury reach a determination, no, they're not called. But what it still remains unusual in my mind, Anderson, is that the prosecutor's office has not met with the Brown family, has not given the Brown family an indication of how they think the presenting is going, what kind of charges they're looking at. That is unusual. It's just simply not the normal course of things. But as we've said before this is not your typical grand jury process. I've never seen anything like it.
COOPER: And Mark, what is the process for all the information that was presented in the grand jury to be made public? To go before a judge first? The judge decide whether or not it will be made public and what's the timeline on something like that?
O'MARA: Well, it's very unusual because normally grand jury testimony is not made public. But the fact that McCullough said in the beginning he was going to make it public is unusual and he has the right to do so. It could be overridden by a judge because the judge sort of has authority over the grand jury and how they present themselves. But presumably with McCullough's statement out front the judge is not going to get in the way and I really hope that the Department of Justice does not get in the way. Because one thing is for certain, particularly with a very unique presentment that was made, we have to see what that grand jury used.
COOPER: Mark O'Mara, Sunny Hostin, I appreciate it.
As you know, we've spent much of this last hour discussing the president's executive action on immigration. As I said earlier, we're going to be back with much more live coverage of this issue at 11 p.m. Eastern. Our panel is going to be back, also we are going to cover a number of other stories that we didn't get to in this hour. So, that's 11:00 Eastern Time tonight.
Right now we're going to turn our attention to another major issue in this country, the price tag of higher education. We're going to explore very basic question. Is college worth the cost? It's the subject of our new CNN film "IVORY TOWER" which starts right now.