By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate
President Obama tonight will announce his plans to bypass Congress and issue an executive action to shield over 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. And while the President’s legal path appears to be clearing, the door is closing on the GOP’s first funding plan to block Obama’s action.
Though White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to divulge into specifics, White House officials and briefed Democratic lawmakers have disclosed significant details of the plan.
The bulk of the effected illegal immigrants, about 3.7 million, would be permitted to stay in the U.S. through a provision granting temporary legal status to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents.
An additional 1.5 million illegal immigrants would be granted legal status through the removal of the age limit found in the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The 2012 memorandum previously permitted those under 30 years of age, illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents, employment authorization and temporary legal status. The parents of these 1.5 million, however, are not expected to be eligible for legal status.
The plan will also reportedly contain added visas for those pursuing STEM fields
White House officials claim that the plan won’t include a path to citizenship or eligibility for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D- NM) also indicated that those affected must undergo a background check and pay any taxes they may owe.
Unspecified border buffers will be part of the plan, as Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson told reporters last week.
The executive action comes as President Obama repeatedly indicated that bypassing Congress would be illegal, previously stating “that’s not how our constitution is written,” later adding, “I’m the President of the United States, not the Emperor of the United States.”
After saying Sunday that his position “hasn’t changed,” the Washington Post Fact Checker awarded the President an “Upside-Down Pinocchio”-- the most grave of The Post Fact Checker’s ratings.
“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority,” Speaker John Boehner stated through his spokesman, “he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue—and many others.”
As the GOP furiously cautions the powerful precedent that the executive action may set, strategies to counteract the plan vary.
Perhaps the most discussed mechanism was to defund the executive action in the spending bill to be voted on December 11th. But that path appears to be crumbling.
The House Appropriations Committee today put out a statement saying, “The primary agency for implementing the President’s new immigration executive order [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)] . . . is entirely self-funded through fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its appropriations . . . Therefore, the appropriations process cannot be used to ‘defund’ the agency.”
“We’re considering a variety of options,” Senator Mitch McConnell said today on the Senate floor, “but make no mistake—make no mistake—when the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for blocking President Obama’s nominees (except those relating to national security) until the President reverses his action.
Others, like current Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbot, say they will almost immediately file a lawsuit protesting the constitutionality of the President’s actions.
President Obama himself told Telemundo in 2013 that executive actions on immigration would be “very difficult to defend, legally.”
But because tonight’s executive action would not grant a path to citizenship, just “deferred action”, 136 law professors sent a letter to the White House justifying the President’s actions under “prosecutorial discretion.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler also points out that there is some level of presidential precedent, though not to this extent. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush granted up to 1.5 million work permits to spouses and children of illegal immigrants who gained legal status through a law passed 4 years earlier. The 1986 law placed numerical limits on permits, which President George H.W. Bush later expanded through executive authority.
GOP aides say there would be no public, official response to the President’s remarks slotted for 8 pm tonight.
Banking on the plurality of Americans who disapprove of the President acting alone on immigration, one GOP lawmaker told Fox News, “Let him self-immolate, we don’t want our reaction to become the news”