House Republican Vote to Block Administrative Action is an Attack on Millions of American Families

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

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.

Weekly Washington Outlook – June 2, 2014

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

The House is in recess this week, returning Monday, June 9.

The Senate:

The Senate returns from its recess Monday afternoon to consider a number of pending judicial and executive nominations, including Sylvia Matthews Burwell’s confirmation to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  While much of the week will be devoted to nominations, it is possible that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will take-up a bill making it easier to dismiss Veterans Affairs officials for misconduct.  It is also possible later in the week Senate Leadership will bring to the floor legislation that would permit recreational hunting and fishing in federal wilderness areas (S. 2363).

White House:

On Monday, the president will speak on a conference call in the afternoon on the Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Later in the evening, he will depart for Warsaw, Poland. On Tuesday morning, President Obama will arrive in Warsaw, where he and President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland will have an opportunity at the airport to meet with U.S. and Polish airmen who are supporting an aviation mission based at Lask Air Base. Following this event, the president will travel to Belweder Palace to take part in a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with President Komorowski. In the afternoon, the president will travel to the Chancellery of the Prime Minister to participate in a bilateral meeting and deliver statements to the press with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Later, he will go to the Presidential Palace to co-host with President Komorowski a meeting with Central and Eastern European leaders. In the evening, the president will attend a Solidarity Dinner at the Royal Castle. On Wednesday, President Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and then travel to the Royal Castle to take an official family photo with leaders attending the Freedom Day event, marking the 25th anniversary of Poland’s first partially free election. At the Royal Castle, Mr. Obama will deliver remarks commemorating Freedom Day. In the afternoon, he will fly to Brussels, Belgium. In the evening, the president will travel to the Royal Palace of Brussels to meet with King Philippe of Belgium. Afterward, he will attend the 2014 G-7 Summit, which will begin with a leaders working dinner on foreign policy issues. On Thursday, the president will participate in G-7 meetings on the global economy and energy and climate issues and a G-7 working lunch on development. G-7 leaders will also take a traditional “family photo.”  In the afternoon, President Obama will participate in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. In the evening, the president will travel to Paris, where he will have dinner with President Hollande and remain overnight. On Friday, the president will travel to Normandy, France, to deliver remarks at Omaha Beach for the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. In the afternoon, he will travel to Sword Beach to attend a leaders lunch hosted by President Hollande and then attend the Ouistreham International Ceremony.  In the evening, President Obama will depart France en route to Washington. Continue reading

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending May 16

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Week Ending May 16, 2014

This week in immigration reform: Poll finds that 71% of tea party voters support immigration reform; after meeting with President Obama, law enforcement officials state changes could be coming to Secure Communities; anti-immigration candidate loses Nebraska primary to more moderate opponent; and Senate democrats continue to pressure House Republicans on immigration.

–Poll finds that 71 percent of tea party voters support comprehensive immigration reform. On Wednesday, The Partnership for a New American Economy, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Tea Party Express released a national survey of 400 Republican primary voters who identified strongly or somewhat with the Tea Party movement. 71 percent said it’s important that Congress act on immigration reform this year, while 70 percent support a plan that provides legal status or U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pay penalties, taxes, pass criminal background checks and learn English and American civics.  In an Op-ed, Sal Russo, co-founder and chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, encouraged conservatives to start leading in reform: conservatives need to seize on immigration reform in order to reaffirm who we are and what makes our country great.”

–Local law enforcement officials met with President Obama to discuss immigration reform and changes to immigration enforcement practices.  After the meeting, local law enforcement officials stated that they anticipate there will be a “reboot” of the Secure Communities program. They also mentioned that Secretary Johnson is aware of problems with the program that uses federal databases to determine if people detained by local law enforcement should be removed.

–Nebraska Primary sees harsh anti-immigrant candidate lose to moderate opponent. On Thursday, Shane Osborne who fervently opposed comprehensive immigration reform, lost to more pragmatic opponent Ben Sasse. While Sasse says he won’t negotiate on an Obama endorsed bill, he said he’s committed to practical solutions. While Osborne signed a pledge from FAIR to oppose amnesty, increases in illegal immigration, and increases in the number of guest workers, Sasse abstained from signing said pledge.

–Senate Democrats continue to pressure House Republicans to allow a vote on immigration reform. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid addressed the Senate floor on the importance of passing immigration reform before the June-August legislative window closes. Senator Schumer echoed Senator Reid’s remarks and warned House Republicans that if an immigration bill didn’t pass this year, there wouldn’t be an opportunity to address reform until 2017.

 NCLR and Affiliates in action.

  • Texas: NCLR’s Civic Engagement Project Manager Janet Hernandez, in collaboration with START Center, held a Colonia leadership summit on Monday and Tuesday in San Benito, TX. The summit encouraged leadership development in communities where there’s strong Latino presence. 

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NCLR continues to drive calls into the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor through our Spring Into Action Campaign.   Check out our new graphic and share it on Facebook and Twitter!

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321 Days

That’s how much time has passed since the U.S. Senate passed a historic bipartisan immigration reform bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took to the Senate floor today to mark the occasion and to call on House Republicans to allow a vote on legislation.

Video of the two minute speech is below followed by the full text of Sen. Reid’s remarks.

Full text:

This morning marks 321 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill. For 321 days, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has done absolutely nothing to address our nation’s broken immigration system. And to the extremists in the House, the time went by just like that. So to House Republicans, 321 days doesn’t seem like a big deal. Outside of the Capitol, though, those 321 days have felt like a lifetime. To families forced to live in the shadows, each of those days brings the dread of discovery and being torn away from their loved ones. Undocumented immigrants have lived in fear for the last 46 weeks, worrying that they will have to leave the country they call ‘home.’ For the last 10 ½ months, children have lost their parents to deportations, all while House Republicans have twiddled their thumbs. I say enough is enough. It’s time for House Republicans to act. They have wasted far too much time already failing to consider a bill that the Senate considered and passed in less than two months.

A year ago the Senate Judiciary Committee was in the middle of marking up the commonsense immigration reform bill. After 2 weeks of serious debate and deliberation under the leadership of Chairman Leahy, and many votes on both Democrat and Republican amendments, the bill was reported out of committee. Within a month, the Senate passed this immigration reform bill and sent it to the House of Representatives. The Senate was able to move on immigration reform quickly because both Senate Democrats and Republicans understand the urgent need to fix the broken system. What’s House Republicans’ excuse? What are they achieving by dragging their feet on immigration reform? They claim to be working on jobs bills, and legislation to reduce the deficit. The fact is that the Senate-passed immigration bill reduces the deficit and spurs the economy more than all the House bills awaiting Senate action combined. I repeat: the Senate-passed immigration bill reduces the deficit and spurs the economy more than all the House bills awaiting Senate action combined.

So it is no wonder that even pro-Republican organizations are calling on Speaker Boehner to stop wasting time. Earlier this week, we heard Tom Donohue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say that it is in Republicans’ best interests to pass immigration reform. In fact, Donohue said of immigration reform: “If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016.” That may be true, but politics should not dictate passage of this bill.

Immigration reform is far more important than election-year politicking. Immigration reform is about families and communities. In September of 2010, I was in the midst of what some considered a tough re-election campaign when I helped champion Senator Durbin’s DREAM Act in the Senate. Though it was eventually blocked by a Republican filibuster, I did my best to pass the DREAM Act, even though some said it would cost me the election. Then, as now, I have many staffers in my state offices dedicated to helping Nevada families with immigration issues stay together. Protecting families in Nevada – all families – is my job. And I take that job very seriously. Yet House Republicans want to do just the opposite.

Recently, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman appeared on a Sunday news show and tried unsuccessfully to justify his party’s inaction. His reasoning as to why the House is dragging its heels? Republicans claim that President Obama can’t be trusted to enforce immigration law, so they will do nothing. So what Republicans are really saying is that they won’t act on immigration reform unless there are more deportations, more families torn apart. And that, in a nutshell, is the immigration platform extremists in the Republican party prefer: the more deportations, the better. I guess that’s what we’ve learned to expect from a House Republican conference whose immigration policy is dictated by the likes of Representative Steve King.

You remember him. He is the Congressman who, instead of permitting immigrants to enlist in the military and earn citizenship, would rather send them “on a bus back to Tijuana.” Congressman King also claimed that for every hard-working, undocumented student, there are 100 more working as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” The fact of the matter is that undocumented immigrants are our neighbors, classmates and colleagues. Regardless of how they got here or why they lack the proper documents, these 11 million people play a crucial part in our economy and communities. And our country and our economy will benefit if we give them a chance to get right with the law.

The Senate has done its part. It’s time for House Republicans to do theirs. I urge the House of Representatives to stop wasting time and bring immigration reform to a vote. Give the American people the assurance that we are working to finally mend our broken immigration system. And give families the opportunity to stay together, and to come forward and work toward legal status. It’s the right thing to do for all of us.