Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said on Monday that President Obama’s decision last week to block deportation of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants gives Republicans a chance to push their preferred legislation on the issue.
Obama’s move offers a chance to “call Democrats’ bluff” said Kyl, who with Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is working on a GOP alternative to Democratic proposals to give permanent legal status to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children if they meet certain educational, legal, and other requirements.
“I don’t mean that in a political sense,” Kyl said. Republicans can say to Democrats: “'All right, if you like what the president has done … wouldn’t it be better to actually give them legal status so that it’s not just a matter of not enforcing the law, but it’s a matter of assuring them that they can remain in the country legally?’ I think that would be a better result for them,” Kyl said.
Kyl said he didn’t know if action is possible before the election. Still, his tone contrasts with that of Rubio, who told The Wall Street Journal that Obama’s action likely derailed his push for legislation this year.
“People are going to say to me, ‘Why are we going to need to do anything on this now? It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election,’ ” Rubio reportedly said.
Kyl said he had “just talked to” to Rubio, and “he and I are in agreement.” Although the issue is fraught with politics, Congress has a chance to force discussion of putting “a good long-term policy in place,” Kyl said.
Obama lacks the power to instruct federal agencies not to “enforce the law” for a particular group, Kyl said. “That’s not a good thing,” he said. “This is a country of laws, and countries begin to break down when laws are not enforced just because somebody doesn’t like them. If we shouldn’t have laws on the books, let’s change them.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a speech on Monday praising Obama’s decision, also called for congressional action. Reid urged passage of Democrats’ Dream Act and for Congress to“fix our broken immigration system once and for all.”
Reid mocked GOP attacks on Obama for ignoring Congress. “It’s Republican opposition that has prevented Congress from acting,” he said, noting that Senate Republicans twice filibustered the Dream Act.