Coinciding nicely with a poll that shows Republicans are increasingly sour on paths to citizenship for illegal residents, particularly if that path requires presidential executive action, on Thursday the U.S. House passed H.R. 5759, the Executive Amnesty Prevention Act of 2014, a bill that would make such executive action illegal. Rep. Don Young voted for the bill, saying that he’s keeping his pledge “to work with my colleagues in the House to pass legislation to rein in (President Obama’s) overreach.” (See Young’s press release below.)
The bill is specific to Obama’s orders to Homeland Security to stop enforcing deportations against illegal residents who were brought to the country as children, as well as parents with children who are citizens. The order could affect up to 5 million illegal residents. Obama took the action because the House refused to hear a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013 with Republican support, including the support of Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
House Republicans didn’t touch other forms of executive action, like unapproved covert action used by such presidents as Ronald Reagan, and the various ways that George W. Bush used presidential authority on national security issues.
It also has no chance of passing the Senate. But it gives Republicans cover to pass a spending bill next week to keep the government open until September 2015, while also defunding Homeland Security, the agency charged with implementing the immigration reforms.
It also provides Democrats a good talking point: “The United States House of Representatives is voting to break up families,” a senior administration official is quoted in The Hill as saying. Too, Latino voters, who overwhelming support Obama’s actions, will take note.
House Speaker John Boehner seemed lukewarm. He put the bill on the shoulders of members who were “griping the most,” he told reporters. “This was their idea of how to proceed,” he said.
Seven Republicans voted against the bill, and three others voted present. Three Democrats supported it.
Here’s Rep. Don Young statement in full:
“Two weeks ago, through executive order, President Obama circumvented Congress by directing his federal agencies to stop the deportation of more than 5 million unlawful immigrants. At that time, he also expanded his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, otherwise known as Dreamers, allowing even more unlawful immigrants to stay in this country. He justified his actions by claiming his Administration is merely exercising its power of prosecutorial discretion, similar to past presidents. As I have said before, that comparison and his use of executive action in this case are plain wrong.”
“Past presidents have used executive action to clarify bipartisan immigration laws that were passed by Congress. President Obama’s executive order, in stark contrast, was not issued to clarify Congressional action, but because Congress wasn’t giving him the answers he wanted in the timeline he promised. This is not how elected officials restore the public’s faith in our government. This is how you erode the public’s faith.”
“When the President first announced his executive order, I pledged to work with my colleagues in the House to pass legislation to rein in this overreach. Today, I backed up those words by supporting legislation that clearly established, in law, that the President does not have the authority to exempt or defer deportation for whole categories of persons unlawfully present in the country. Any executive action that violates this statutory limit will be considered null and void. This legislation would apply to the President recent executive order and any future ones that work to circumvent our immigration laws.”
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