Op-Ed

GOP can’t sit on the sidelines

FERRÉ
FERRÉ

A Texas judge may have given the Republican Congress a reprieve from its feeble attempts at meaningful immigration reform, if they would only see it.

Last Monday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, Tex., entered a preliminary injunction that prohibits the Obama administration from implementing an executive order granting lawful status to approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010, have a U.S.-born child and have not committed a felony.

The program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), is designed around the parents of “Dreamers,” children who were brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own. The same cannot be said of the parents. But, interestingly, that is not the basis of the injunction.

The court ruled on the issue that DAPA illegally grants benefits, such as Social Security, work authorization and travel in and out of the country, to those who are ineligible. It’s a change in law that was never granted by Congress. This is a temporary victory for the 26 states that joined this legal challenge arguing that this executive action would cause undue economic hardship on states as unfunded mandates.

In Texas, for example, it is calculated that approximately 500,000 of the 1.6 million who live there illegally would be eligible to take the driving examination, costing the state almost $200 each to process. Do the math, the figure is startling.

The Obama administration argues that DAPA is in compliance with the law under prosecutorial discretion, but that is not the case. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security instructed immigration officials to essentially stop deportations; there is no prosecutorial discretion. In addition, it assigns benefits to those the law deems ineligible. It is a change in immigration law that only Congressional lawmakers can approve.

If only they would.

Try as they might, immigration reform is not an issue that the House and Senate can wish away. It is a complex and far-reaching challenge that affects our economic well-being and the social fabric of the country.

It demands that legislators and the president put the interests of the nation over politics, which is the essence of good leadership. That is not what voters are seeing in the nation’s capital today.

It is clear that this president has never been inclined to work in a bipartisan manner, which has only emboldened the political extremes of both parties. Thoughtful and important legislation has been stalled to the benefit of very few. While the Department of Justice works on an appeal to the Texas ruling, those undocumented immigrants who thought they had a chance to clean their records remain in limbo.

So what is the GOP’s endgame? It appears to be a coin toss.

Republican leaders think they are clever by including a provision in the Department of Homeland Security funding bill that excludes DAPA, knowing full well that it will be greeted by a presidential veto.

Although both Republicans and Democrats will be at fault for partially paralyzing such an important department, bet your boots that Republicans will get most of the blame.

Everyone is deeply concerned by the growing terrorist menace around the world. Anyone who thinks that halting the proper function of Homeland Security is going to sit well with the American public is in for a big surprise. Republicans have reelections, the president does not. If they were wise, Republicans would back off and leave this issue for the courts to decide. In the meantime, they have a job to do.

Immigration laws must be amended, and the status of those who are here illegally must be addressed. Providing a mechanism that will allow eligible undocumented immigrants to get on the right side of the law will be a boon for the American economy and will help unite the country. Doing nothing keeps unenforceable policies in place, which is an affront to the rule of law.

President Obama was correct all along that he did not have the legal authority to change immigration law. Republicans are right in that only Congress has the authority to pass legislation. So let’s have the debate on immigration legislation in Congress, where it belongs.

As many have said, it is not only the smart thing; it is also the right thing to do.

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