Top Republican Warns Against Executive Action on Deportations

Chairman Goodlatte: It would release the pressure on Congress to pass immigration reform.

National Journal
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Elahe Izad
April 3, 2014, 7:29 a.m.

House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Good­latte warned that uni­lat­er­al ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion on im­mig­ra­tion en­force­ment by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion will make it even harder for com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form to pass Con­gress.

“When the pres­id­ent takes ac­tion uni­lat­er­ally in areas that far stretch what the law in­ten­ded …, that builds mis­trust. Will the pres­id­ent ex­ecute the new laws if we agree to them for im­mig­ra­tion re­form, for ex­ample?” the Vir­gin­ia Re­pub­lic­an said Thursday at a Na­tion­al Journ­al and At­lantic Me­dia event un­der­writ­ten by the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Broad­casters. “So the push by some to have the pres­id­ent act uni­lat­er­ally in areas be­cause they’re frus­trated and tired of wait­ing for the Con­gress to act is ac­tu­ally very coun­ter­pro­duct­ive to hav­ing le­gis­la­tion done in cer­tain areas.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing po­ten­tial ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion to fur­ther curb de­port­a­tions. For months, ad­voc­ates have been pres­sur­ing the White House to halt de­port­a­tions of un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants. In 2012, the ad­min­is­tra­tion en­acted De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, a pro­gram that delays de­port­a­tion pro­ceed­ings for cer­tain young people, or “dream­ers.”

“He’s at­tempt­ing to re­write laws to suit what he per­ceives to be de­mands from cer­tain groups. That’s a mis­take,” Good­latte said. “He should keep put­ting the pres­sure on the Con­gress to act, and the pub­lic should as well, and not cre­ate a re­lease, a safety valve, by do­ing something uni­lat­er­ally that then causes to make it even harder to do the full panoply of things that need to be done in im­mig­ra­tion re­form.”

Dur­ing his 2014 State of the Uni­on ad­dress, Obama said he will use his ex­ec­ut­ive powers to act when Con­gress has failed to do so. One of the chief pro­ponents of fur­ther ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion on de­port­a­tions, Demo­crat­ic Rep. Lu­is Gu­ti­er­rez of Illinois, warned on the House floor this week that if the House doesn’t pass im­mig­ra­tion re­form by Ju­ly, Obama will take such ac­tion.

Good­latte said im­mig­ra­tion laws “need to be re­viewed and changed today,” but that the pres­sure cre­ated by en­for­cing the cur­rent laws is what will push Con­gress to act.

The House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship un­veiled a set of im­mig­ra­tion re­form prin­ciples earli­er this year. Good­latte said much of the ob­jec­tion in the con­fer­ence wasn’t to the prin­ciples but to the tim­ing, and that many House Re­pub­lic­ans didn’t trust the pres­id­ent. That’s a point that Demo­crats on the Hill have cri­ti­cized as an ex­cuse to not pass re­form this year.

The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee has ap­proved four im­mig­ra­tion-re­lated bills, but it’s un­clear when the full House will ever take any of them up. In re­sponse to a ques­tion at Thursday’s event from a self-iden­ti­fied un­doc­u­mented teen­ager, Good­latte said he did not sup­port “a spe­cial path­way to cit­izen­ship” for the un­doc­u­mented.

“What I have fo­cused on is an ap­pro­pri­ate leg­al status for people. It’s es­pe­cially true for a young per­son like this young lady who was brought here il­leg­ally by her par­ents — really she knows the United States as her coun­try, and I think that needs to be ad­dressed,” Good­latte said. But, he ad­ded, he didn’t want to en­cour­age fam­il­ies to il­leg­ally bring young chil­dren, via a dan­ger­ous jour­ney, to the United States.