Signaling growing unrest with the Obama administration’s level of cooperation, House Republicans on an immigration subcommittee voted Wednesday to authorize a subpoena to get data on illegal immigrants against whom the government has declined to pursue deportation cases.
The 7-4 party-line vote came two days after the Department of Homeland Security failed to meet an Oct. 31 deadline given to DHS Secretary Janet A. Napolitano last week by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. Mr. Smith said he could issue the subpoena as early as Thursday.
Meanwhile, late Wednesday, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced its investigative subcommittee will hold a vote early Thursday to authorize subpoenas for documents related to Solyndra, the failed solar-technology company that received special attention from the White House.
Together, they show an increasing belief among Republicans that the administration is stonewalling requests from the new GOP majority in the House.
At issue in the immigration subpoena are the identities of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who have been arrested by state and local police and run through the government’s Secure Communities program, but whom the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has declined to put in deportation proceedings.
“The American people have a right to know what crimes these 300,000 illegal immigrants committed after ICE intentionally chose not detain them,” Mr. Smith said.
He requested the information in late August, and said at first it seemed like the administration was trying to cooperate. He said he was told ICE produced the list and sent it to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency, for final approval.
But since then the process has bogged down, and Mr. Smith last week gave an Oct. 31 deadline for producing the information. This week, Homeland Security officials told Mr. Smith they discovered they need FBI permission to release some of the data, which caused them to miss the Monday deadline, according to committee members.
All seven Republicans on the panel voted to authorize the subpoena, while all four Democrats opposed it, arguing the administration is making a good-faith effort to compile the information and should be given more time.
“This subpoena is an unnecessary witch hunt,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat.
And Rep. John Conyers Jr., the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Homeland Security officials had promised on a conference call earlier Wednesday to send over whatever information they could release “today or tomorrow or the next few days.”
Democrats pleaded for a delay in the vote, but Republicans said authorizing a subpoena wasn’t the same as issuing it.
They also said the vote should send a signal to the administration to respect Congress’ role in overseeing the executive branch.
One panel member, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, said that when Ms. Napolitano came before the committee last week, she was unprepared to answer questions, and he said the subpoena is a way to get information.
“It’s time to make sure the administration knows these are serious issues to us,” he said.