- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three of President Obama’s GOP partners on immigration warned him Thursday not to try to act on his own to grant tentative legal status to illegal immigrants, saying the border is not yet secure enough from both illegal immigration and potential terrorist threats.

Sens. Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham — who all worked with Mr. Obama and Democrats last year to pass a broad legalization bill — said in a letter that the president lacks the legal authority to act on his own, and that it would be a mistake anyway.

The letter marks a stunning turnaround for the three, who battled many in their own party to take action on immigration, and who have warned that the GOP needs to take a stand on the issue in order to win over Hispanic voters.

“No action should be taken to legalize undocumented immigrants who are living and working in the United States until we have properly secured our southern border and provided for effective enforcement of immigration laws,” the senators said.

The bill they helped write as part of the Gang of Eight senators would have granted quick legal status to most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, with an eventual chance at citizenship. Meanwhile, the federal government would boost border infrastructure and add more Border Patrol agents over a decade.

The passed the Senate on a bipartisan 68-32 vote, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans backing it. But House Republican leaders refused to bring it up, saying they wanted to focus first on border security.

A fourth Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake, joined the three in writing the Senate bill. He did not sign their letter. His spokeswoman said he’s writing his own letter, saying that he not only believes Mr. Obama shouldn’t take action on his own, but also wants to register disapproval with the president for cutting the Operation Streamline program that prosecuted illegal immigrants, creating an extra deterrent for them to come to the U.S. in the first place.

President Obama has repeatedly vowed to take unilateral action halting more deportations — but has delayed each time, under political pressure.

His latest promise is to act after next week’s election, when voters would no longer be able to register disapproval by defeating his allies at the polls. However, the possibility of two run-off Senate elections in Louisiana and Georgia — one in December and the other in January — could complicate his timing again.

Josh Earnest, Mr. Obama’s spokesman, told reporters Thursday that he had no update on timing.

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