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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Immigration Policies

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley is leading 18 colleagues in questioning the administration's immigration policies that go beyond the scope of the law and allow people who have broken our laws to remain in the country. The Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over federal immigration policy.

In a letter sent late yesterday, the senators cite a June 17th memo and an August 18th directive which 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. Its policies ignore the rule of law and take the powers provided to the administration to an entirely new level," Grassley said.

Cosigners of the letter with Grassley are Senators David Vitter of Louisiana, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, James E. Risch of Idaho, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Boozman of Arkansas, Mike Lee of Utah, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Here is a copy of the letter. A signed copy can be found here.

September 26, 2011

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express serious concern about your immigration policies and ask that you require the Department of Homeland Security to overturn recent directives regarding the increased use of prosecutorial discretion. We also request that the Administration halt any initiative, whether through regulation or otherwise, that circumvents Congress or aims to ensure that illegal immigrants are afforded every possibility to remain in this country.

After the release of the June 17th Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memorandum, which called for the increased use of prosecutorial discretion, several members of the Senate wrote to Assistant Secretary John Morton. While prosecutorial discretion is justifiable in certain cases, this initiative may result in an impermissible intrusion on Congress's plenary authority over immigration law. Accordingly, we asked Assistant Secretary Morton to rescind the memorandum outlining ICE's prosecutorial discretion policies. That request has been ignored.

We are also concerned that the initiative announced by Secretary Napolitano on August 18th will result in the administrative closure of an untold number of cases currently pending before our immigration and federal courts. In combination with the June 17th ICE memo, these new policies send the message that your Administration is turning a blind eye to those who have broken our 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 in violation of the law without fear of apprehension or deportation. The security of our country depends on our ability to prevent unlawful entry and to respond when such criminals have overstayed their visa or avoided inspection. These policies have the potential to undermine the rule of law and threaten our nation's security.

While we appreciate Secretary Napolitano's assurances that these initiatives will not provide categorical relief for any group, we remain concerned about statements being made by certain advocates and members of Congress. For example, in a September 20th speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senator Dick Durbin stated that these initiatives "pave the way" for DREAM Act students. He further stated that "[the Administration] said recently that those eligible for the DREAM Act, good moral character, graduates of high school and pursuing college degrees are not going to be their targets." The United States Senate and the American people have rejected the DREAM Act and the Executive Branch is not entitled to bypass that determination by administrative fiat.

Further, in a recent speech before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Congressman Luis Gutierrez stated: "[President Obama] said, "But I can't bypass Congress,' and people in the audience said, "Yes you can,' and you want to know something? They were right -- he could and he did." Such statements will only create a rush to the border and encourage the undocumented population to come forward in hopes of receiving a benefit.

There is still time to correct this path. 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. We also ask that you make Secretary Napolitano available to members of the Senate for questioning about the Department's immigration enforcement policies, including granting parole, deferred action, and prosecutorial discretion to keep unlawful immigrants in this country.

Finally, we reiterate our strong commitment to ensuring that the Administration has all of the resources it needs to carry out and enforce our 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. We look forward to your timely response.


Charles E. Grassley David Vitter
Jeff Sessions Orrin G. Hatch
Jim DeMint Tom Coburn
James E. Risch Mike Crapo
John Boozman Mike Lee
James M. Inhofe Saxby Chambliss
Johnny Isakson Michael B. Enzi
Rand Paul Roy Blunt
Mike Johanns John Barrasso
Ron Johnson

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