Last year, the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform. The vote was 68-32. Fourteen Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, crossed the aisle to vote with all Democrats in favor of the bill. The House, however, has refused to take up the bill. In response, President Obama announced in a speech on Thursday that he was taking matters into his own hands and said he would issue an executive order that would grant up to about 5 million illegal residents temporary amnesty. Here are the conditions: they have to have children who are citizens or legal residents; they have to have been here for more than five years; and they have to pass a criminal background check. The program is only in effect until 2017 or until Congress passes reform. If that doesn’t happen, the next president will determine whether to extend it.
As expected, Republicans, including Murkowski and Rep. Don Young–who is party of the body who refused to take up the bill–decried Obama’s actions. (Both of their full statements, as well as the statement of Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan, are below.)
It should be noted, however, that other Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, both used executive action to protect illegal immigrants from being deported. Their actions didn’t protect as many immigrants then, but that’s because there were fewer of them to protect. Statistically, the percentages are comparable. When Reagan signed his order, there were 3.7 million illegal residents in the U.S. Today, there are about 11 million. ”
Here’s Murkowski statement:
“Alaskans know that I support thoughtful comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform of the current broken system. This is why I voted for a bill in June 2013 that had been vetted and debated in the U.S. Senate, and I stand ready to do so again in the next Congress.
“However, what I cannot support is immigration changes in the form of a Presidential fiat – an action publicly called unlawful by President Obama twenty two separate times. What’s changed, aside from him being on the other side of an election?
Here’s Young’s statement:
“Through Executive Order, President Obama has moved forward on actions he previously said were not within his Constitutional authority – a unilateral declaration to ignore U.S. law and stop the deportation of more than 5 million unlawful immigrants. Bypassing Congress and changing the law himself, simply because the Legislative Branch has not given the answers he’s looking for, is plain wrong. Ignoring the clear majority of Americans who oppose amnesty will only hurt this nation and the principles it was founded upon.
“Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power over naturalization of immigrants, not the President. While past Presidents have used Executive Action or ‘prosecutorial discretion’ to address immigration, it has only been to enforce or clarify laws already passed by Congress. In stark contrast, President Obama’s lawless executive decree significantly undermines the American people’s trust in the branch of government responsible for enforcing our laws and puts our constitution in great jeopardy.”
Here’s Sullivan’s statement:
“President Obama’s decision to unilaterally issue executive amnesty shows a blatant disregard for the rule of law and the will of the American people. This is executive overreach at its worst, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle should be outraged because he is ignoring the Constitutional role of the Congress to write our nation’s laws,” said Sullivan. “The President’s refusal to faithfully execute the law as required by the Constitution, when it does not suit his agenda, has saddled our communities with uncertainty and helped cause the recent flood of unaccompanied minors at the border.”
“First and foremost, we must secure our borders. Unfortunately, President Obama’s amnesty plan doesn’t do that. As Alaska’s U.S. Senator, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to undo this unlawful power grab and restore Alaskans’ and Americans’ voice to the process.”
And this from Hillary Clinton:
Thanks to POTUS for taking action on immigration in the face of inaction. Now let’s turn to permanent bipartisan reform. #ImmigrationAction
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 21, 2014
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