President Obama unveiled his immigration plan last November 20 in a televised address from the White House. The GOP immediately vowed to counter the President’s executive action.
About five million undocumented immigrants would benefit from his plan. They include parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. It also expands the 2012 DACA program that has deferred the removal of young immigrants. Most of the beneficiaries of the plan would be given work permits. More details of the immigration relief will be spelled out soon.
Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said that the GOP will try to cripple the president’s action with legal challenges or cancelling their funding. He had said that the Republicans would “fight the president tooth and nail.” To this end, the GOP, which would control both House and Senate next year, could pass a bill defunding agencies responsible for the relief programs and immigration enforcement.
Congress is also scheduled to pass an omnibus spending bill by December 11, 2014. The measure should fund the government until October 2015; however, House Republicans are considering passing a short-term funding measure that will fund the government only through February next year. This will allow them to pass a bill that will prohibit disbursement of funds on processing of applications and work permits covered by the President’s executive order.
If Congress passes a short-term funding measure, many believe that a vote on another spending bill early next year could lead to “brinkmanship” such as threats to defund the government that could lead to a government shutdown. The President, however, relies on the word of Mitch McConnell, incoming Senate Majority Leader, that Republicans would not be shutting down the government.
Speaker House Boehner, on the other hand, warned “that all options are on the table.” A number of Republicans are also considering impeachment, including Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) who had said that he will call for impeachment of the President for his executive action.
Before the President’s announcement, immigrant rights advocates had complained that any delay on the part of the President to exercise his executive authority would subject thousands of families to more suffering. Each year, about 400,000 have been deported. With the current enforcement policies in place, Obama has removed more than two million immigrants under his presidency.
America’s Voice Deputy Director Lynn Tramonte said “Every day that there’s no executive action over 1,000 families lose a loved one to deportation. It was not acceptable for them to delay this summer, this fall and certainly would not be acceptable for them to delay any further.”
Senators Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Charles Schumer (D-New York), Patty Murray (D-Washington State), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colorado) in their support letter to the President said that “Immigrant communities have waited too long for House Republicans to catch up with the American public’s support for comprehensive immigration reform. We strongly support your plan to improve as much of the immigration system as you can within your legal authority…”
Although the opposition from the GOP is mounting, the administration is relying on the support from immigrants which would make Republicans think twice as to their steps to derail his immigration plans.
The executive order issued by the President can be readily superseded by act of Congress. If Republicans are unwilling to fix the broken immigration system, they should, at the very least, not hinder the President to do what he can within his legal authority to improve it.