In excess of 20 Senate Republicans have recently expressed their concern that President Obama is playing fast and free with the rule of law on immigration. In a letter addressed to the president, the senators raised “grave concerns” over Obama’s recent request for an immigration “enforcement review” that is now being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Early reports have the Republicans on the alert for possible dilutions of constitutional law as it applies to the legal enforcement of immigration. Some are concerned that Obama is not just intent on diluting the law but in fact discarding the rule of law.
The immigration review request to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson came after Obama met with immigration advocacy groups in March of this year and appears to be a direct response to pressure from his supporters who are pro-immigration and anti-deportation. Obama has instructed the DHS to examine whether current immigration deportation policies could be implemented in a more “humane” fashion. According to some reports, Obama is asking the DHS to refine their deportation policies to exclude illegal immigrants that do not have a criminal record. These are to be considered “low priority” illegal immigrants. In 2013, the number of immigrants that by definition fell into that demographic accounted for 50,000 of the 360,000 deportations that year.
The Republican senators that sent the letter to Obama reminded him that his administration is tasked with the strengthening of immigration enforcement, not to weaken it. They further state that Obama’s existing policy directives have served to “nullify” immigration enforcement and thus have incrementally weakened national security. At issue is the concept that unless a person who has entered the country illegally commits a further crime, is apprehended and “convicted of a felony,” they are “free to live and work in the country.” In essence, this makes illegal immigration not illegal unless a second crime is committed and results in an apprehension. This policy can be interpreted as “back door amnesty.”
In response to Obama’s potential deportation rule of law revisions, Roy Beck the Executive Director of NumbersUSA, an organization advocating for less immigration, wondered if the only way to get deported from the U.S. was to “kill or mug.” Beck also pointed out that without the “threat of deportation” there is very little to cause an illegal immigrant to return to their home country.
Many Democrats and other advocates for illegal immigrant rights support their position with the human-interest angle that deporting illegal immigrants, who have otherwise not committed any other offense, tears families apart and is inhumane. They cite cases in which illegal immigrants have been living and working in the country for sometimes decades and have U.S. citizen children enrolled in the school systems. The human interest element and likely the political need to appease a voting demographic, appears to be the reason why Obama is now asking the DHS to relax deportation law, if not exactly discarding the law altogether.
Republicans and border enforcement advocates point to the fact that entering the country illegally is in and of itself an illegal act and as such, should be enforced by an exacting rule of law. They further state that Obama’s flexible interpretation of what enforcing the rule of law means, exceeds the bounds of “the Executive Branch’s prosecutorial discretion.”
Obama’s apparent intention to further relax the rule of law regarding the deportation of illegal immigrants raises many national security concerns. As the Republican senators state in their letter to the president, Congress has never passed laws that permit people to “enter the country illegally,” nor to “ignore visa expiration dates.” Further, Congress has never approved the setting of considerations upon the law that allow for exceptions not specifically delineated by current law. Further, they remind Obama that he is tasked with making sure that federal law is “faithfully executed” and state that his current actions demonstrate an “astonishing” disregard for the Constitution.
These Republican senators have made their position clear that not just in the case of illegal immigration but in any case where the rule of law is discarded by the president, the “entire constitutional system is threatened.” They have asked President Obama to “uphold his oath” and carry out his Constitutional duties as “entrusted to him” by the American people. Given his administration’s track record, it is unlikely that Obama will seriously consider any suggestions from Republicans and will continue to play fast and free with the rule of law when it comes to illegal immigration.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke
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