President Obama’s decision last month to grant deferred action to thousands of immigrants eligible for deportation is either illegal or humane, according to dueling statements released Thursday by members of Texas’ congressional delegation.
On June 15, the administration announced it would instruct the Department of Homeland Security to begin issuing work permits and grant relief from deportation to certain immigrants brought to the country illegally before they were 16 years old.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, who has labeled a host of immigration polices aimed at focusing on deporting serious criminals over other offenders “backdoor amnesty,” told Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that the deferred action decision ignores “the rule of law.”
“The administration’s amnesty agenda is a win for illegal immigrants but a loss for Americans,” Smith told Napolitano on Thursday during a scheduled House DHS oversight committee hearing. “When illegal immigrants are allowed to live and work in the U.S., unemployed American workers have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs. With 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, this amnesty only makes their lives harder.”
Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, added that the move is a magnet for fraud.
“Many illegal immigrants will falsely claim they came to the U.S. as children, and this administration refuses to take the steps necessary to check whether their claims are true or not,” he said.
House Democrats, however, said they would rally around the president and defend him against attempts to stymie the administration’s powers.
“We agree that you are on solid moral and legal ground, and we will do everything within our power to defend your actions and the authority that you, like past Presidents, can exercise to set enforcement priorities and better protect our neighborhoods and our nation,” wrote U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. The letter was also signed by U.S. Reps. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Al Green, D-Houston; Gene Green, D-Houston; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Edinburg; and Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso.
But Democrats also made it clear that they want more.
“Despite this vital reprieve for a deserving group of promising individuals, we also understand that it does not diminish the need for a permanent solution and comprehensive immigration reform,” the Democrats insisted. “Mr. President, we stand committed to fixing the broken immigration system once and for all, and we are ready to fight for a permanent solution that benefits all children and families, the economy, our national security and our nation.”
About 800,000 people would be eligible to apply for the work permits, according to Gutierrez’s office. They are scheduled to be eligible starting next month.