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Bill Clinton: Obama immigration order on 'firm legal ground'

The former president says the current one is on "pretty firm legal ground" in issuing executive action on immigration.
Former President Bill Clinton speaks an event on Oct. 13, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. (Photo by Jessica Hill/AP)
Former President Bill Clinton speaks an event on Oct. 13, 2014, in Hartford, Conn.

There's at least one power player who has Barack Obama’s back on immigration: Bill Clinton.

The former president said at an event in Washington on Wednesday night that the current president is on "pretty firm legal ground” when it comes to the executive action the president is pursuing on immigration. The move could shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportations.

Republicans have aimed withering fire at the White House for the proposed action — GOP lawmakers have called it everything from illegal to dictatorial. But Clinton is unfazed. He said it was nothing too far out of the ordinary for presidents.

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"As far as I can tell, every president in the modern era has issued some executive action on immigration. So I imagine he'll be on pretty firm legal ground," Clinton said Wednesday night at a gala to honor The New Republic magazine’s centennial.

As the magazine itself pointed out earlier Wednesday, President George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan also acted unilaterally on immigration.

Obama’s plan will be formally announced Thursday, but it is expected to broadly increase the categories of undocumented immigrants who will be given formal reprieves from deportation. The president will give a major speech on the plan in Las Vegas on Friday.

Republicans have vowed to fight the order “tooth and nail,” threatening lawsuits and even another government shutdown. But the administration said it is sure it’s order would hold up in courts. Even legal scholars associated with the conservative Federalist Society have said they think the president’s action would probably pass muster.