Eighteen Republican senators led by the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking member, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, are questioning the Obama administration's immigration policies, saying they go beyond the scope of the law and allow those who entered the country illegally to remain.
Citing a June 17 memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and an Aug. 18 directive by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the senators criticized in a letter Monday to President Obama policies they said "outline and encourage" increased use of prosecutorial discretion and administrative closure of cases pending before the courts.
"The administration has repeatedly ignored and dismissed our reservations with its policies that circumvent Congress and provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants," said Mr. Grassley of Iowa.
The senators said they were concerned the memo and the directive will result in the administrative closure of an untold number of cases pending before U.S. immigration courts and send a message that the administration is turning "a blind eye" to those who have broken immigration laws.
"We are also concerned that these policies appear to be a direct attempt to categorically legalize those who are unlawfully in the country and to allow undocumented individuals to remain ... without fear of apprehension or deportation," the senators said.
The June 17 memo by ICE Director John Morton made clear to all field office directors and special agents in charge that agency employees can exercise prosecutorial discretion in civil immigration enforcement.
The memo said ICE has limited resources to remove those illegally in this country and must prioritize the use of its enforcement personnel, detention space and removal assets.
Ms. Napolitano's directive reaffirmed Mr. Morton's memo, saying those priorities focus the agency's resources on enhancing border security and identifying and removing criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety and national security.
The 18 senators ask that Mr. Obama require the Department of Homeland Security to overturn the recent directives.
While prosecutorial discretion is justifiable in certain cases, the senators said, the initiative may result in an "impermissible intrusion on Congress's authority over immigration law." They said they previously asked Mr. Morton to rescind the memo, but the request was ignored.
The Dream Act would allow illegal immigrants already in the country to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. In lieu of congressional action, the Obama administration has said it will use discretion to halt deportations of those who would have been affected by the Dream Act.
"Such statements will only create a rush to the border and encourage the undocumented population to come forward in hopes of receiving a benefit," the senators said. "We request that you promptly rescind these initiatives, dismantle the working group designed to identify 'low-priority' cases before our immigration and federal courts, and direct the agencies within the Department of Homeland Security to abide by our nation's immigration laws."
"It is unjustifiable for the administration to sidestep Congress to implement policies that are contrary to the law and the wishes of the American people."
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