Republican Senators Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsay Graham on Thursday asked President Barack Obama not to take executive action to provide relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants, as he has promised to do after the midterm elections.
"We write to you today to strongly discourage such action," said the three lawmakers in a letter directed to the president, in which they say that it is necessary first to secure the U.S. border before providing immigration relief to undocumented foreigners.
"Moreover, the need to secure our southern border and effectively enforce the law has been underscored - not diminished - by recent developments at home and abroad of which you are well aware," added the senators, referring to the child migrant crisis last summer.
The trio, who at one time were part of the "Gang of Eight" that prepared a comprehensive immigration reform bill approved by the Senate, asked the president to let the matter "be debated and decided by the representatives of the people" rather than taking executive action on it.
The president said he would offer immigrants who have been illegally in the United States for some time a way to become legal residents, pay taxes, pay a fine and learn English.
"Acting by executive order on an issue of this magnitude would be the most divisive action you could take — completely undermining any good-faith effort to meaningfully address this important issue, which would be a disservice to the needs of the American people," the senators argued.
McCain (Ariz.), Graham (S.C.) and Rubio (Fla.) reiterated in their letter that Congress "must fulfill its obligations under the Constitution and address this issue."
"Furthermore," they continued, "it is not clear under what authority you would take such action, if you chose to do so."
The Senate passed the Gang of Eight measure - which boosted border security, increased visas for legal immigrants and a provided a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally - in June 2013, but it failed in the House.
Activists say time is running out on the Senate-passed bill, with no indication that the House would vote during a postelection, lame-duck session.
Given the inaction, Obama had promised months ago to take executive action on the matter to alleviate the suffering caused to many by deportations and family separation.
Although the president did not specify exactly how far he would go to provide immigration relief, he said that he would take executive action after the summer but later decided to postpone such a move due to pressure from various Democratic lawmakers who are facing tough midterm election races so as not to hurt their chances on Nov. 4.
EFE and the Associated Press contributed to this report.