Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
On Nov. 19, House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, tweeted his list of the 22 times Democratic President Barack Obama disavowed his ability to stop immigrant deportations without congressional help.
Fellow Republicans upset at Obama's November announcement potentially protecting millions of immigrants from deportation have cited Boehner's "22" ever since--though the tally folds in imperfect/incomplete evidence.
Boehner stuck to his count this Sunday, saying on CBS’ Face the Nation: "The president said 22 times, 22 times, that he couldn't do what he eventually did."
The same day, both Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise repeated the "22 times" declaration, on NBC’s Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday, respectively. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of 52 Republicans who opposed a plan to fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks, used the figure to defend his House Freedom Caucus’ actions on CNN’s State of the Union.
Whether Obama repeatedly disavowed his ability to independently stem deportations became a hot iron after Obama’s November announcement he'd delay deportations of unauthorized immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years but have children who are citizens or have green cards. More than 4 million people could qualify. An applicant could qualify for a work permit and avoid being deported for three years at a time if he or she can pass a background check and pay a fee. The decision is bound for higher court battles after a Texas federal judge issued a temporary injunction on the action, saying it may have violated procedural rules for using executive power.
This action followed on Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, an executive action to protect "dreamers," or people brought here illegally as children and have not committed crimes. That move, too, was viewed by critics as an abuse of power, but supporters said it helped provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of residents.
So, what of Boehner's "22" figure?
In December, we looked into every findable Boehner quotation of Obama for our check of Texas U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul’s statement based on the speaker’s count. McCaul had said Obama "said over 20 times he did not have the legal authority" to act as he did on immigration."
Our review identified less than 15 congruent examples--though McCaul’s message was spot-on, leaving his claim Mostly True.
In February, we looked for such Obama declarations afresh after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said: "22 times ...Obama said he did not have the authority to implement this type of" anti-deportation "measure. And then the day after he signed this into law, he said, quote, ‘I just changed the law.’" Texas has been leading more than 20 states challenging the immigration order in federal court.
As before, we found less than 15 solid instances of Obama effectively saying no can do by my lonesome. But Obama did say later that he'd taken an action to change the law; Abbott’s statement was rated Mostly True.
Blog post, "22 Times President Obama Said He Couldn’t Ignore or Create His Own Immigration Law," House Speaker John Boehner, Nov. 19, 2014
PolitiFact Texas, "Michael McCaul says Obama said 'over 20 times' he lacked authority to act alone on immigration," Dec. 5, 2014
PolitiFact Texas, "Greg Abbott says 22 times Barack Obama said he couldn't shield immigrants, then said 'I changed law'," Feb. 23, 2015
PolitiFact, "Boehner: Obama said '22 times' that he couldn't do immigration executive action," March 1, 2015