Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa – An internal Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has created a firestorm on Capitol Hill over revelations the Obama administration is considering sidestepping Congress to grant illegal immigrants “amnesty” by executive fiat.
“Once again, the Obama administration says one thing and does another,” asserts a statement from the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee attributed to ranking member Lamar Smith, R-Texas. “The President has promised border security and immigration enforcement. He has said we must hold individuals accountable for their illegal acts. And, in suing the State of Arizona, the administration argued that it is their responsibility to enforce the laws.
“But now we find out the truth,” the statement continues. “While saying one thing to the public, the Obama administration is scheming to ensure that immigration laws are not enforced!”
The fiery words come in response to an undated memo addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas and written by four agency staffers.
The memo outlines a plan of granting illegal immigrants “deferred action” on prosecution, enabling them to live in the U.S. “indefinitely.”
While not technically granting citizenship, the deferred-action plan outlined in the memo does state such immigrants may apply for employment authorization and continue to live in the U.S. free from the threat of removal.
The memo also admits the strategy could be used “as a non-legislative version of ‘amnesty.’”
Agency spokesperson Chris Bentley has defended the Obama administration, saying the memo was nothing more than “deliberation” and an “exchange of ideas.”
“As a matter of good government, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will discuss just about every issue that comes within the purview of the immigration system,” Bentley said in an e-mail statement reported by The Washington Times. “We continue to maintain that comprehensive bipartisan legislation, coupled with smart, effective enforcement, is the only solution to our nation’s immigration challenges.”
Bentley said the Homeland Security Department “will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal-immigrant population.”
Indeed, the authors of the memo point out problems with using their plan to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
“While it is theoretically possible to grant deferred action to an unrestricted number of unlawfully present individuals, doing so would likely be controversial, not to mention expensive,” the memo states. “Rather than making deferred action widely available to hundreds of thousands as a non-legislative version of ‘amnesty,’ (Citizenship and Immigration) could tailor the use of this discretionary option for particular groups.”
The memo then lists examples of those who could benefit from deferred action, such as students under the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation proposed by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Richard Durbin, D-Ill., that would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who attend U.S. colleges or serve in the military.
But just because the report warns against using “deferred action” as a blanket amnesty for illegals doesn’t mean the Obama administration won’t try it, warn Republicans.
“This memo gives credence to our concerns that the administration will go to great lengths to circumvent Congress and unilaterally execute a backdoor amnesty plan,” Sen. Grassley said, as quoted in the Times.
“How to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants in the country is a question for the people’s representatives in Congress and not for unaccountable federal bureaucrats,” blasted Smith in the GOP committee statement. “This is an insult to millions of unemployed citizens and legal immigrants who have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs. The Obama administration needs to stop its scheming and put Americans’ interests first.”
Earlier this year, when news of the memo was first being whispered about in Washington, Mayorkas appeared before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, where Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, warned the administration official against the deferred-action plan.
“I think it would be a mistake for the administration to use administrative action, like deferred action on a categorical basis, to deal with a large number of people who are here without proper legal documents to regularize their status without Congress’ participation,” Cornyn said.
“The American public’s confidence in the federal government’s ability and commitment to enforce our immigration laws is at an all-time low,” Cornyn said in a statement. “This apparent step to circumvent Congress – and avoid a transparent debate on how to fix our broken immigration system – threatens to further erode public confidence in its government and makes it less likely we will ever reach consensus and pass credible border security and immigration reform.”