Rebuffed in an earlier attempt to pry answers from the Obama administration about its internal debates over immigration policy, a group of Republican lawmakers is now demanding Congress investigate the matter.
The seven GOP. senators who sit on the Judiciary Committee have written to the panel's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), asking him to convene a hearing so they can question administration officials about a newly surfaced draft memo about immigration.
Believed to be about four months old, the undated, eleven-page document was written by four staffers and legal counsel who work for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a sub-unit of the Department of Homeland Security. The memo was addressed - but never sent, official tell Fox News - to the agency's director, Alejandro Mayorkas.
The memo bore the title "Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform." The authors said they were not advocating making "a non-legislative version of 'amnesty'...widely available to hundreds of thousands" of illegal immigrants. However they did propose, "in the absence" of congressional action on immigration reform, a number of "administrative relief options to...reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization." The memo also stated that USCIS "can extend benefits and/or protections to many [such] individuals and groups."
A Department of Homeland Security official told Fox News that the document was only a draft memo and therefore should not be equated with actual administration policy. Asked about the document on "Fox and Friends" last Friday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he had not seen it and doubted it had circulated at the White House, but that the administration does not, in any case, support "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
The seven Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, led by ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-AL), do not accept those assurances from DHS and the White House. Accordingly, they have asked Sen. Leahy to probe the origins and effects of the internal document. "We are very concerned about the options outlined in the memo," the GOP letter to Leahy said, "and are troubled that the executive branch could be engaged in an effort to inappropriately expand its authority to ensure illegal immigrants are not removed from the United States and are given access to various immigration benefits, including potential green card status."
The letter follows an earlier one that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) - the member of the Judiciary Committee whose office obtained the previously secret USCIS memo - and six other GOP senators sent to President Obama in late June. In that letter, Grassley and his colleagues did not disclose that they had obtained the USCIS memo; rather they expressed general concern over "reports" that the administration was secretly considering implementing the very policies that the USCIS memo outlines.
These include deferred deportation of illegal immigrants and revised guidelines for other immigration tools, such as parole-in-place.
A source on the majority staff for the Judiciary Committee told Fox News that Chairman Leahy received the G.O.P. lawmakers' request for a hearing late Monday night, but has not yet made any decision. "They seem to have a lot of requests for hearings lately," the source said wryly.
Another group of G.O.P. lawmakers, led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), sent a similar letter, also requesting a hearing about the CIS memo, to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. A spokesman for Lieberman said he would have no comment on the McCain request.