Over at the Washington Examiner, Byron York has a must-read piece up in which he explains the details of two plans submitted by House Republicans this week aimed at preventing the implementation of President Barack Obama’s unilateral extension of legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
The two bills, filed by Alabama Republican Reps. Martha Roby and Robert Aderholt respectively, seek to preempt the implementation of the president’s executive order, but one is more sweeping than the other.
The new bill, the “Repeal Executive Amnesty Act of 2015,” is from Rep. Robert Aderholt, who, like Roby, is from Alabama. The 44-page measure “not only defunds the president’s actions towards amnesty but also removes the president’s discretion in the ability to grant work permits, Social Security, and other federal benefits that go along with his order,” Aderholt said in a press release Wednesday. In addition, the proposal will “put limits on the president’s future ability to enact such wide-reaching actions that circumvent the Constitution’s separation of powers,” Aderholt said.
Roby’s bill is a simple, three-page measure intended to be part of the upcoming appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security. In a few paragraphs, it prohibits the Department from using any funds to enforce the administration directives issued on Nov. 20 and 21 of last year in which DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and President Obama ruled out deportation and offered a number of federal benefits to immigrants in the country illegally.
Aderholt’s bill does the same thing, but in addition voids a number of other administration immigration memoranda, dating from 2011 and 2012. In addition to that, Aderholt would put new limits on the ability of executive branch officials to offer “humanitarian parole” to immigrants who have entered the United States illegally.
York also observed that Aderholt’s proposal would amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. That law was thought to have played a significant role in prompting the summer’s border crisis in which thousands of illegal minors were sent on the perilous journey north in the expectation that, once they made it across the border, they would enjoy protections that would otherwise be denied to adults.
The fact that these bills target enforcement rather than the reform of the immigration system reflects what Mitch McConnell called the poisoning of the well that has been the result of Obama’s executive order.
In an appearance with Jazz on Rick Moran’s program the other day, we talked about the future prospects for immigration reform in a post-executive order world and concluded, as most have, that they are now dim. But so much of this debate now hinges on how the Republican leadership approaches the fight over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans as part of the “Cromnibus.”
Republicans who saw few good opportunities to attack the president’s executive order in 2014 have placed a lot of faith in the notion that the GOP would be better positioned to defang this proposal when the GOP-dominated 114th Congress convened. They were disheartened when Sen. John Thune (R-SD) suggested that the GOP would never go so far as to shut down DHS, even as a result of this executive order.
From the perspective of a political analyst, Thune’s concerns are valid. You can see the suboptimal headlines now: “Republicans shut down American national security over immigration.” In the wake of the brutal attack on a Parisian weekly by Islamist militants, Republicans would be excoriated in the media and charged with putting American lives in peril in a tantrum over the president’s executive order. That directly contradicts McConnell’s pledge to demonstrate that GOP governance is not a “scary” prospect.
If, however, Republicans decline to prosecute this fight over immigration by forcefully litigating the issue of DHS funding in February, they will be betraying not merely the conservative activist wing, which was always mistrustful of this approach, but also the moderates who were willing to reserve judgment. If, for fear of bad headlines, congressional Republican leadership fails to make good on the promise to do all within their power to prevent the implementation of Obama’s order by DHS next month, they will have a real revolution on their hands. And they will deserve it.
Congressional GOP leadership would do well to undo the damage done by Thune’s comments and communicate to the conservative base that they are serious about blunting Obama’s immigration initiative. Making the Roby and/or Aderholt bills a priority would accomplish that. The base does not believe the GOP is serious about opposing the president’s immigration actions, and their suspicions will be fueled the longer leadership waits to communicate the urgency of the issue.