On Tuesday, the House of Representatives held two hearings examining the recent announcement of administrative relief on immigration by President Obama. In the morning, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing with the charged title: “Open Borders: The Impact of Presidential Amnesty on Border Security.” In his opening statement, Chairman Michael McCaul characterized executive action as an “unprecedented executive power grab” that “poisoned the well” and has broken the trust between Congress and the executive branch. Those claiming the president’s actions are “unprecedented” are misinformed. History shows us that more often than not, executive action has been the catalyst for legislation.
In the meantime, the nation should not be denied the national security, economic, moral, and social benefits we gain from having immigrants coming forward to work legally and to stay with their families. Instead of providing solutions to fix the broken immigration system, Republicans on the committee argued with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson over whether or not President Obama had “changed the law,” refusing to move beyond their rhetoric to address the purpose of the hearing: how President Obama’s action will enhance border security, making the country safer.
In the afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “President Obama’s Executive Overreach on Immigration,” focusing on the constitutionality of the president’s executive action. While the three witnesses invited to testify by the House Republicans argued that President Obama’s action was unconstitutional, others have reached a different conclusion. A letter signed by more than 130 legal scholars outlines the opinion that the president’s actions are within his authority under prosecutorial discretion. Another letter signed by 10 law professors and lawyers apolitically determines the president’s actions are lawful. The letter notes, “While we differ among ourselves on many issues relating to presidential power and immigration policy, we are all of the view that these actions are lawful. They are exercises of prosecutorial discretion that are consistent with governing law and with the policies that Congress has expressed in the statutes that it has enacted.” In addition to these legal scholars, the Department of Justice issued a memo to the executive branch outlining the authority of the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize and defer removal of unlawfully present immigrants.
On Thursday, the House passed the ‘‘Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act of 2014” (H.R. 5759), a symbolic bill to inhibit the execution of President Obama’s executive actions. The bill passed 219–197. House Republicans have themselves recognized the futility of this legislation, saying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wouldn’t bring the bill up in the Senate. However, the House Republican leadership decided to spend the last few days of the session pulling stunts instead of seriously addressing immigration reform. Instead of demonstrating leadership on immigration, House Republicans confirmed that they have no intention of acting on the issue. They are voting against the progress that has been made through the president’s action, which is a commonsense solution for our country.