WASHINGTON - It looks like another major political hot potato has just landed on President Barack Obama's desk: what to do about Justin Bieber.
That's because a petition on the White House website about the controversy-prone Canadian pop star has crossed the crucial threshold of 100,000 signatures, compelling the White House to craft a formal reply.
The petition topic is: "Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card."
The critical mass of signatures was gathered even before Bieber was back in Canada, where he was charged Wednesday with assault after Toronto police alleged he hit a limousine driver several times in the back of the head.<
The petition was actually posted last week upon Bieber's arrest in Miami over a drag-racing incident — which came before his encounter with police in Toronto, but after a raid on his California house where one of Bieber's friends was arrested for cocaine possession.
"He is not only threatening the safety of our people, but he is also a terrible influence on our nation's youth," the petition said. "We the people would like to remove Justin Bieber from our society."
The number of signatures zoomed to more than 101,000 early Wednesday, reaching more than 106,000 by midday.
The White House instituted the 100,000-signature requirement after its website was flooded with spoof petitions — including one demanding that America build an "$850,000,000,000,000,000, Star Wars-style Death Star.''
The White House produced a tongue-in-cheek reply to that one, informing people that a Death Star was not fiscally feasible in a time of budgetary constraints.
One immigration lawyer, however, is taking the question of deporting Bieber very seriously, producing a 2,400-word legal analysis of the pop star's legal status.
His conclusions? The U.S. president can't and won't do anything about it.
"Although the existence (and success) of this online petition is certainly amusing, even when an official response is published, it is unlikely to satisfy the petition's supporters," writes Winnipeg-born Henry Chang, who has practised law in both countries.
"This is because the White House does not have any real authority to deport an individual that it deems undesirable."
Chang goes through the details of the singer's scrapes with the law — from the egg-tossing incident in California to the list of alleged transgressions in Miami last week, which resulted in charges of driving under the influence, resisting arrest and driving with an expired license.
Chang also cites legal history and concludes with the following assessment: Bieber can probably stay in the U.S., although he's likely in for a hassle the next time he's at U.S. Customs.
"At the present time, it appears unlikely that Justin Bieber could be deported for any of the offences for which he has been charged," Chang writes.
"However, there is a very real possibility that Mr. Bieber could be questioned by (border agents) the next time he tries to re-enter the United States."
In an email later Wednesday, Chang said he'd keep an eye on events in Toronto — in case his note might have to be updated.