House Republican leaders may still be trying to convince their party’s rank-and-file of the need to pass a version of immigration reform which holds out some kind of benefit for immigrants. In the meantime, they’re sticking with the tried and true. On Wednesday, the House voted along party lines to pass the ENFORCE Act, a bill which would establish a procedure for lawmakers in Congress to sue the president for failing to faithfully execute the laws. The bill’s sponsors say it’s intended to counteract what they see as President Obama’s “executive overreach”, and cite his actions on immigration – along with healthcare – as proof.
“Our Constitution is clear: Congress writes our laws and the President enforces them,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in a press release on March 5 after it passed the committee. He went on to accuse President Obama of “waiving, amending or ignoring our laws by issuing executive decrees from the Oval Office rather than working with Americans’ representatives in Congress…we’ve witnessed President Obama systematically dismantle our immigration laws and rewrite his signature healthcare law even though he doesn’t have the authority to do so.”
The White House quickly issued a press release saying that if the measure were to pass in the Senate, Obama would veto it. According to the Huffington Post, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters during a Wednesday briefing, “It doesn't require much to look at what House Republicans are doing today and question whether or not they're serious about moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform.” House Democrats also expressed outrage during floor debate over the bill on Wednesday, pointing out that it marked only the second time in the present Congress that the chamber’s GOP leaders had brought a bill on immigration up for a vote. The first time came in 2012, when Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) introduced a measure which would have defunded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created earlier that year by President Obama – a program which extended protection from deportation and work authorization to many Dreamers, or young undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally by their parents as children.
“I want to read to you from the Republican principles on immigration,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a key House Democrat player on the issue. “This is what your caucus put forward. ‘One of the greatest founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistake of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residents of citizenship for those brought to this country as children through no fault of their own and no other place.’ Yet today you want to take away that very ability from the president of the United States.”
Two other similar bills that passed the House Judiciary Committee last week will soon come up for a vote. One, the Faithful Execution of the Law Act, would require the Attorney General to notify Congress whenever a federal officer in the Justice Department does not faithfully administer the law. The House will vote on that on Thursday. The other bill, the Immigration Compliance Enforcement (ICE) Act, would defund any position in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency which advocates for the rights of immigrants.