- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Brushing aside Democrats’ warnings of permanent political doom, House Republicans voted Thursday to cancel President Obama’s deportation amnesties, casting it as an effort to undo a runaway White House untethered either to the Constitution or its own words and promises.

In a debate freighted with political, symbolic and constitutional significance, House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, read 22 quotes from Mr. Obama denying he had powers to act unilaterally to halt deportations. The president claimed the powers last year when he announced an amnesty for more than 4 million illegal immigrants, granting them tentative legal status and work permits to compete legally for jobs.

“We do not take this action lightly, but there is simply no alternative,” Mr. Boehner said from the well of the House. “This is not a dispute between parties, or even branches of government. The president’s overreach is an affront to the rule of law and the Constitution itself.”

Democrats, no less strenuous in their defense of Mr. Obama, accused Republicans of mean-spiritedness with a series of votes to roll back Mr. Obama’s November amnesty and a smaller 2012 amnesty for Dreamers, or young adults brought to the U.S. as children.

“As a country, we’re better than this. Shame on you,” said Rep. Linda T. Sanchez of California, chairwoman of the House Hispanic Caucus.

The vote to cancel the November amnesty was 237-190, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. The vote to cancel the amnesty for Dreamers was less popular, passing on a 218-209 vote with 26 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition.

White House officials and immigrant rights advocates feared the votes could send illegal immigrants back into the shadows.

But Cecilia Munoz, Mr. Obama’s domestic policy director, said the White House will make it clear to illegal immigrants that the president won’t be daunted.
“At the end of the day, we are confident we are going to be implementing these executive actions,” she said.

The courts could have a final say, however. Several challenges have been filed, including one in Texas, where 25 states have sued, arguing that they will have to fund billions of dollars worth of services to illegal immigrants if the president’s plans are allowed to stand.

A judge will hold a hearing Thursday on the states’ request for an injunction.

Wednesday’s fight was part of the debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security Department and its immigration enforcement mission through the end of the fiscal year. That bill cleared the House on a 236-191 vote.

Mr. Obama has vowed to veto the bill because it includes the provisions canceling his amnesties, and Senate Democratic leaders said they will lead a filibuster to prevent the bill from even reaching the president’s desk.

That would leave homeland security funding in limbo, with a Feb. 27 deadline looming, and rank-and-file House Republicans acknowledged Wednesday that they aren’t sure about the next step.

“I don’t know that there is a Plan B,” said Rep. Peter T. King, a New York Republican who voted for the amendment to cancel the November amnesty but against the plan to scrap the Dreamer amnesty. “It’s a work in progress.”

Mr. King said there are six weeks to go before the deadline, which gives all sides a chance to work out an agreement.

House and Senate Republicans will gather Thursday and Friday in Pennsylvania for a policy retreat, where immigration is bound to take up much of the discussion.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican who opposed both amnesty amendments, said the effort was a waste because Republicans don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto.

“I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish President Obama was not in the White House. But that’s the reality,” he said.

All sides said Wednesday’s votes were momentous political statements and served as a signal of how much the immigration debate has changed over the past year.

House Republicans entered their annual policy retreat last year with Mr. Boehner announcing principles for tackling immigration, including legalizing the Dreamers and figuring out a solution for the rest of the illegal immigrant population. This year, Mr. Boehner led the charge to cancel the amnesty for Dreamers and to step up enforcement of immigration laws.

Republicans said the moves should be seen as statements on the Constitution and separation of powers, not as attacks on immigrants.

Democrats, though, said Hispanic voters won’t see it that way.

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who has been a staunch advocate for legalizing illegal immigrants, chided Republicans for backtracking on Mr. Boehner’s stance to legalize Dreamers.

“One year later, you want to take away from 600,000 Dreamers their right to live in this country. What happened? What happened?” Mr. Gutierrez said.

He vowed to make sure Hispanic voters punish Republicans for the votes: “The fruits of your action today will ultimately anger and outrage and [mobilize] the immigrant community throughout this nation.”

Democrats pointed to missives from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the AFL-CIO and Hispanic rights groups who all blasted the amendments. The bishops said deporting illegal immigrants would fracture families, and labor unions said the moves were “anti-immigrant.”

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