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House GOP goes out of its way to influence SCOTUS on immigration

Groups fighting for reform on Thursday called the House's vote on Obama's executive action on immigration a political stunt that could backfire.
A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 19, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)
A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 19, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

If congressional Republicans are at all wary of jumping behind Donald Trump as the party’s leader, they’re not shying away from the divisive anti-immigrant agenda that defines his candidacy.

In a highly unusual step to weigh-in on a case pending before the Supreme Court, House Republicans on Thursday voted to state for the official record that Congress stands in firm opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The final tally divided almost entirely along party lines, authorizing House Republicans to file an amicus brief to excoriate the initiatives as a dramatic overreach of the president’s executive authority. It now stands as the Republican-led House’s official stance in the contentious legal battle that brings the actions before the Supreme Court next month.

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“I believe this is vital. This is not a question of whether or not we are for or against a certain policy …. This comes down to a much more fundamental question,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “This is about the integrity of our Constitution."

Thursday’s vote also granted Republicans a chance to publicly vote against Obama’s domestic agenda and use that as re-election ammunition in a year when immigration stands as a particularly contentious issue.

Pro-immigrant rights advocates jumped on Thursday’s vote to tie congressional Republicans to Trump, whose alienating remarks toward minorities and immigrants have become a hallmark of his presidential campaign.

By bringing up the resolution for a vote, Paul is “doubling down on Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan said in a press conference on Wednesday.

“This vote does not address supposed executive overreach, as they will argue,” he added. “It is an anti-immigrant vote, plain and simple. You better believe that this is a true manifestation of the Party of Trump in the House.”

Obama’s immigration actions — two widely popular programs within the immigrant community that aim to protect as many as 5 million people from deportation — have been on hold for more than a year, trapped in a lengthy legal battle that will remain unresolved until the Supreme Court decision in June.

Congressional Democrats have tried to sway the court opinion in favor of the initiatives, known as DACA and DAPA. Last week, 225 House and Senate Democrats filed their own amicus brief in support of the administration.

The core of the Obama administration’s defense is that the actions are well within the president’s powers. They argue that because the federal government does not have the will and the resources to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., it’s only practical to create a priority list of who is subject for removal now, and whose deportation deserves to be deferred.

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Congressional Republicans have walked a fine line to argue that their stance against the programs are not anti-immigrant, but rather, in opposition to Obama’s ability to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to lawfully remain in the U.S.

Groups fighting for comprehensive immigration reform on Thursday called the House vote a political stunt that could backfire on members of Congress fighting for re-election in districts that are growing more diverse.

“With this, the anti-immigrant groups get to score another vote ahead of the 2016 elections,” Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice, said in a statement. “Ryan's GOP colleagues get another talking point on the campaign trail. And immigrants get another reminder of how much they are hated by the modern-day GOP.”