Obama imposes new immigration policy; Congress reacts
President Barack Obama in a Friday afternoon address announced new directives in which effective amnesty would be granted to 800,000 illegal immigrants.
Under the new policy, which the president called “temporary,” illegal immigrants below the age of 30 who were brought into the United States as children, have lived in the U.S. for at least five consecutive years without committing other crimes, and either graduated high school or completed military service will be immunized from deportation. They will also be able to apply for renewable two-year work permits.
He repeated it was “the right thing to do” to remove the “shadow of deportation” from young people.
Only a little over a year ago, President Obama told a town hall meeting hosted by the Spanish-language network Univision, “With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.” Thus, Barack Obama 2011 can be counted as among the first critics of the new Obama policy.
Another prominent critic is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has proposed legislation that would make similar modifications to immigration law. The signal difference, as Rubio pointed out, is that he wants to pass a law, with the appropriate Congressional and public debate. He called the President’s move “a short-term answer to a long-term problem,” and said that “by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short-term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long=term one.”
Writing on his Facebook page, Florida Republican Congressman Allen West agreed. “This is yet another example of executive branch overreach,” said West. “We have a legislative process that ensures representative governance by the consent of the American people. This action should be crafted into legislation, debated in committee and brought before the House and Senate for vote, with accordance of our Constitutional Republic way. Secretary Napolitano is an unelected administrative bureaucrat who does not have the right to make governing decisions for this country. It is apparent that the goal of the Obama administration is not to govern, but rule by edict.”
West also noted the irony that “Secretary Napolitano would not assist our State of Florida with ensuring the integrity of the voting process but she can make a unilateral decision about who can reside in America.” This is a reference to the Homeland Security data that was withheld from the state of Florida when it sought to confirm the citizenship of numerous registered voters. The state charges this denial of access by DHS was unlawful, and has filed suit accordingly.
Congressman Peter King (R-NY) of the House Homeland Security Committee said “the Administration is overstepping its authority by weakening immigration laws without Congressional approval.” He was also critical of recent reports that a “catch and release” policy for low-priority border violators would be imposed on Border Patrol agents. He said his committee “will be launching an immediate review into the possibility that DHS will direct Border Patrol agents to conduct selective enforcement.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) declared via Twitter that “President Obama’s attempt to go around Congress and the American people is at best unwise and possibly illegal. This type of policy proposal, regardless of motivation, will entice people to break our laws. President Obama chose politics over leadership. ‘Hope and Change’ have become bait-and-switch.”
Republican Congressman David Schweikert of Arizona called the new policy “a backdoor amnesty plan,” and pointed out that hundreds of thousands of new work permits will place a great strain upon our already overstressed economy.
“This thinly veiled political ploy is detrimental to Arizonans who are already struggling to find jobs and will now have to compete with illegal immigrants,” said Rep. Schweikert. “While President Obama asks the Department of Homeland Security to look the other way, I ask him to respect the rule of law, and get back to focusing on putting 23 million unemployed Americans back to work.”
Congressional Democrats were, not surprisingly, much more supportive of the President’s abrogation of legislative authority. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) called it “an historic humanitarian moment,” adding that “it is not the American way to punish children for their parents’ actions.” Presumably this does not include the children who will be required to pay for the Obama Administration’s titanic deficits.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) offered confident predictions of how America’s new semi-citizens will use their privileges: “For all the young people who call this country their home but have been unable to fulfill their dreams, I am profoundly grateful to the President and the Administration for suspending the deportation of Dreamers. For these young men and women who want to become doctors, teachers, police officers and soldiers, this announcement will change their lives forever.”
Perhaps the most trenchant criticism of the President’s actions came from someone who aspires to a seat in the Senate: Texas Republican hopeful Ted Cruz, who stated via the Internet: “The Constitution places on the President the solemn responsibility to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’ President Obama has repeatedly defied the Constitution and flouted the rule of law. His latest decision to refuse to enforce our immigration laws is cravenly political, lawless, and wrong.”
“We have a crisis in illegal immigration,” Cruz continued, “and the federal government must get serious about securing our borders; this latest Obama policy is nothing more than an attempt to enact back-door amnesty, and I categorically oppose amnesty.”
Cruz will face current Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst in a runoff on July 31. Dewhurst also blasted the Administration announcement: “We have a crisis in illegal immigration, and the federal government must get serious about securing our borders; this latest Obama policy is nothing more than an attempt to enact back-door amnesty, and I categorically oppose amnesty. Bypassing Congress’ authority to implement this policy also sets a dangerous precedent for future debates on important issues.”
“Instead of participating in election-year gimmicks,” Dewhurst advised, “President Obama should follow the rule of law and secure our border, something his administration and the federal government have fundamentally failed to do.”
Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) denounced the “crass election-year politics” of Obama’s move, but also raised some practical objections to the new policy: “With this ruling, the Obama Administration has created an enforcement nightmare by design: how and to what extent can agents determine the actual fulfillment of the eligibility criteria? The terms of this arrangement say that an eligible person cannot have committed a crime. However, entering the country through non-legal means, overstaying a visa, or using fraudulent documents like fake Social Security cards or birth certificates are all crimes. Yet, many people eligible for this amnesty will not have a charge or conviction for any of these crimes.”