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Immigration

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GRASSLEY. I want to talk about immigration and a part of the immigration issue that concerns me, and, by golly, it has something to do with government oversight as well.

Last August, some lawyers at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service drafted internal memos outlining ways that the administration could get around Congress and grant undocumented aliens in the United States legal status. These amnesty memos outline ways that the executive branch could use discretionary authority to make sure thousands--who knows, maybe millions--of people here illegally could stay here without a vote of Congress.

A number of Republicans sent a letter to President Obama urging him to abandon any such plan. We sent several letters to Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano asking for statistics and a briefing on these memos. We asked for assurances that such plans to bypass Congress--I emphasize ``plans to bypass Congress''--not be implemented. What did we get? All we got was radio silence.

I raise this issue again today because I am bothered by reports that there is another push for this administration to grant amnesty through Executive order, which only should be done by the law of this Congress, to certain groups of undocumented populations. Surprisingly, the push for this is coming from our friends on the other side of the aisle. Yesterday, 22 Democrats sent a letter to President Obama asking him to turn a blind eye to the law. These 22 Senators said they were OK with having an executive branch go ahead and go around Congress and grant amnesty to those who would be eligible under the so-called DREAM Act. These Senators said they didn't have the votes to get the bill through the Senate last year.

Their approach is in a nonconstitutional fashion to ask the President to have his administration use what is referred to legally as prosecutorial discretion to keep these undocumented individuals here. They claim doing so would be ``consistent with our strong interest in the rule of law.'' They say doing so would ``help to conserve limited enforcement resources.''

I am appalled, and I hope a lot of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are appalled, that Members of this body think that an Executive order to grant amnesty behind our backs is not an assault on the democratic process. Congress has the power to change immigration laws and only Congress has the power to change immigration laws. The President has limited authority to grant relief in limited and emergency circumstances. I support the President's power to do that, but it was not meant to be used in a blanket fashion. The request by 22 Members of this body is an affront to our country's longstanding belief in the rule of law, and it is an attack on this body's duty to legislate on behalf of the American people, a power to legislate that the President does not have.

I happen to agree that our immigration policies have to be reformed. I will commit to moving legislation that expands upon or improves the legal avenue we currently have in place. Once again, we have not seen leadership by this President to work on a bill this Congress can support. Until that time comes, it would be foolish and disappointing if this President circumvented the democratic process and did what 22 Members of this body asked him to do in the letter to which I referred.

I yield the floor.


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