The House of Representatives voted 224–201 Thursday morning to deny funding for the Obama administration’s controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. The policy, which was implemented via executive order in June 2012, effectively assumes the enactment of the DREAM Act, legislation that has failed to pass Congress on multiple occassions, and has raised concerns about executive overreach:
Republicans have argued that these orders amount to the selective enforcement of U.S. immigration laws that discourages enforcement against children who were brought to the United States illegally, or illegal immigrant adults who are not in any legal trouble. Many Republicans have dubbed Obama’s orders as “administrative amnesty.”
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sponsored the amendment to the 2014 Department of Homeland Security spending bill, and called for its passage in late Wednesday debate by saying Obama’s orders — also known as the Morton memos — violate the Constitution.
“The point here is … the President does not have the authority to waive immigration law, nor does he have the authority to create it out of thin air, and he’s done both with these Morton memos in this respect,” King said.
A group of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are challenging the policy in federal court, which I wrote about last week:
ICE agents are currently suing the administration, arguing that the new policy “violates the obligation of the executive branch to faithfully execute the law,” which states that if immigration officers determine that an individual who has been arrested is in the country illegally, that individual “shall be detained” and processed for deportation. The Obama administration, however, is arguing that the word “shall,” in this instance, actually means “may.” DHS is simply exercising its “prosecutorial discretion,” the administration contends, with respect to immigration law enforcement.
Agents claim that the new policy is routinely abused: Illegal immigrants arrested on criminal charges will simply declare themselves eligible for “deferred action” protection, and agents are forced to release them without charge; they must take the detainees at their word, in accordance with new administration policy. Agents are threatened with disciplinary action if they object. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit was assaulted by an illegal immigrant in the course of arresting the immigrant on a domestic-violence charge. When the agent attempted to initiate deportation proceedings, ICE officials intervened and ordered the immigrant to be released without charge. The decision was “based on the President’s new immigration policies,” according to court documents.
The judge handling the case has already indicated that he is likely to rule against the administration.