Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who at one point was said to be writing his own immigration overhaul legislation and this week is at the Texas border visiting detention centers, has sent President Barack Obama a letter calling for an end to the 2012 executive order granting stays of deportation to children brought into the country illegally by their parents.
Reversing the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order, known as DACA, would “send a clear signal to all individuals that our immigration laws will be enforced,” the California Republican and thirty-two House GOP cosigners wrote.
DACA doesn’t apply to the thousands of children who have crossed the border illegally in recent months, but critics of the Obama policy say it has contributed to a general misunderstanding in some Central American countries that young people will be allowed to stay in the U.S.
Issa and his backers also say Obama should “make an explicit public comment that you will not support legislation that extends legal status to newly arriving illegal aliens no matter the age.”
The lawmakers who have lent their signatures to the letter represent an array of interests and perspectives across the House Republican Conference, including those who, like Issa, at one point supported a legislative fix to the nation’s immigration system that included a pathway to legal status to undocumented immigrants, including those who qualified for DACA — the so-called Dreamers.
The set of immigration overhaul principles House Republican leaders rolled out in January included the following section:
One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.
One member who went on the record supporting those principles, and months later signed Issa’s letter: Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.
Another who signed the letter, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., said he supported the principles “in part,” though declined to say which part.
According to CQ Roll Call’s whip count of support for those principles back in late-February, those who said they were “undecided” and went on to sign the Issa letter include Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and Rob Wittman, R-Va.
Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, also indicated that he was undecided on the issue earlier this year, but during a recent bid for majority leader cast himself as the candidate who would protect members from having to vote on immigration overhaul legislation. He gave his endorsement to Issa’s effort.
Members of leadership who signed the letter include Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., and Conference Secretary Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a staunch ally of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, also signed.
Another signatory is Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who told CQ Roll Call earlier Wednesday that Obama was to blame for the child migrant border surge but, even earlier in the day, told MSNBC that he envisioned passage of legislation one day that would grant undocumented immigrants a pathway to legal status.
Regarding the Dreamers, Farenthold said, “the children that were brought here by their parents at very young ages . . . that’s a very sympathetic problem.”
Read the full letter, and view a complete list of co-signers, below:
July 2, 2014
Dear Mr. President:
As our country faces an unprecedented surge in the arrival of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) at our southwestern border, we call on you to immediately end the failed policies that encourage young individuals to put themselves in peril, leave their home countries, and make a long and dangerous journey to enter our country illegally. Instead, you must work with Congress to expeditiously end this unsustainable course.
In recent years, your Administration has vowed to circumvent Congress, ignore immigration law, and act outside the scope of Executive powers to implement your desired immigration practices. Now, our Border Patrol agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, health and education services, and communities along the southwestern border are overwhelmed by a crisis that must be addressed immediately.
On June 23, 2014, the Department of Homeland Security promoted an opinion editorial by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson that attempted to dissuade young foreign nationals from entering the United States illegally by pointing out that they will not receive preferential status under any one of your promised programs. As the written piece suggests, the current surge is far more than a humanitarian crisis resulting from violence and economic failures in Central America. The perception of eventual legal status has been generated through your Administrative actions. To counter these perceptions, you must take concrete action beyond editorials and press releases- you must end the failed policies that stimulated this unmanageable situation.
Firstly, we call on you to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created, without congressional support, by your Administration in June, 2012. While the current program only applies to arrivals prior to 2007, the very existence of the program contradicts present law and violates the Constitutional principle of a separation of powers which grants primary law making authority to the Congress. The Executive does not get to pick and choose which laws must be enforced and which can be selectively ignored. Further, DACA rewards families and individuals who have broken our laws, further encouraging others to seek similar benefits. The DACA program must be immediately ended to send a clear signal to all individuals that our immigration laws will be enforced.
Secondly, you must make an explicit public commitment that you will not support legislation that extends legal status to newly arriving illegal aliens no matter the age. Secretary Johnson’s statement that S. 744, the Senate’s immigration proposal, would not confer benefits to the newly arriving UACs is insufficient to mitigate the popular belief that a pathway to citizenship will be available to any individual in the United States. We request that you remove from consideration any preferential treatment for individuals who have recently illegally crossed our borders.
Additionally, on March 13, 2014, you directed Secretary Johnson to conduct a review of the Department of Homeland Security’s deportation procedures. In May, you requested that the findings of this review be delayed until the end of the summer, suggesting that at that time you would once again be willing to act on immigration policy without Congressional approval. Your continued commitment to circumvent Congress and implement policies contrary to the intent of immigration law sends foreign nationals the false hope that administrative amnesty is possible. By refusing to disclose the nature of the DHS review and the scope of policy considerations, your Administration has encouraged UACs to enter the United States sooner rather than later, and we ask that you immediately clarify the intent of this review and ensure that no special treatment for any illegal alien, including UACs, will be attempted through the DHS review.
Following the end of these three destructive efforts, you should work with legislators to ensure vigorous oversight of our generous asylum system to avoid fraud and abuse. The National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has conducted oversight of fraud and abuse in the existing asylum process. As Congress considers legislative proposals to ensure our system is reserved for deserving applicants, we urge you to cooperate with Congressional leaders to provide accurate data on the recent surge and work for legislative reforms that ensure the safe repatriation of these minor children to family members in their home countries and provide the commitment necessary to secure our border.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Rep Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla.
Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss.
Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla.
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va.
Rep. Ralph M. Hall, R-Texas
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas
Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif.
Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas
Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich.
Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla.
Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark.