Two years ago, President Obama announced a breakthrough policy on immigration. With congressional Republicans having turned against the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), despite the proposal’s previous bipartisan support, the White House made an executive move.
Under the new policy, the Obama administration stopped deportation for undocumented children, most of whom know no other country than this one as home. Under “deferred action,” the president ordered that these hundreds of thousands of young people be permitted to stay, continue with their studies, and/or be eligible for work permits.
This week, facing an expiration of the initial round of permits, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced an extension of the administration’s program. “Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws,” Johnson said.
And yet, congressional Republicans weren’t happy in June 2012 when the policy was first announced, and they’re not happy in June 2014, either.
Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., blasted the Department of Homeland Security’s Thursday announcement about the program helping certain undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. […]“These actions undermine Congress’ hard work to reform our immigration laws and also raise serious concerns about the administration’s ability and willingness to maintain the integrity of our immigration laws,” Goodlatte continued, adding that his committee will continue to probe “the Obama administration’s lax immigration enforcement and … how these changes impact our immigration system.”
These are not the comments of someone who intends to work in good faith on a bipartisan package on immigration reform.
On the contrary, it sounds like the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is saying he expects more deportations in the short term, even of children, and the president’s willingness to govern in this area makes action from the Republican-led House that much less likely.
Greg Sargent summarized Goodlatte’s posturing this way: “We won’t act on immigration, but if Obama acts alone, we won’t act on immigration. So there.”
In the meantime, some optimists continue to believe reform has a pulse.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart says momentum is growing in the House for action on immigration — despite some tough election-year rhetoric recently from fellow Republicans and what the Florida congressman considers ill-advised threats of unilateral action by President Barack Obama.Diaz-Balart, a major player in the effort on Capitol Hill to produce a bipartisan overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, told CQ Roll Call Tuesday he has more supporters now than a month ago and still expects the Republican-controlled House to act before leaving town in August.“Every day I’m getting more and more Republicans — conservatives — who are frankly approaching me saying, ‘How do we move forward?’ I feel very very confident that a majority — a strong majority — of Republicans want to finally tackle this system that everyone understands is broken — with some caveats,” he said in a phone interview. “Republicans are insisting that we take this step-by-step.”
With all due respect to the congressman, whose motivations are clearly sincere and who has worked diligently for a long time to advance a bill, he’s been optimistic before, too.
The simple fact that House Republicans don’t support immigration reform is a hurdle that’s awfully tough to clear.