Politics & Policy

The Case against Obama’s Amnesty

(Getty Images)
It will set back efforts to reform immigration.

Just a few years ago, a prominent national Democrat firmly and unequivocally rejected the idea that the president of the United States could singlehandedly enact an amnesty program for millions of illegal immigrants.

In 2011, for example, this Democrat reminded us that “there are laws on the books that Congress has passed,” and that therefore it would not be permissible for the president to “suspend deportations through executive order.” 

In 2013, this same Democrat noted that granting a unilateral amnesty for adults residing in our country illegally was “not an option,” because it would amount to “ignoring the law.”

As you might have guessed, that Democrat was President Obama.

Yet the president is now poised to authorize the type of action that he previously opposed, even after his go-it-alone approach on immigration and other issues was soundly rejected by the American people at the ballot box.

Though the president promised he would tackle immigration reform with Congress during his first year in office, his record has instead been a series of empty promises and unilateral policy changes that have produced disastrous results. Because of his decisions to bypass the legislative branch and the rule of law, we have seen thousands of deportable criminals, including many with violent records, released from immigration detention. We also saw a genuine humanitarian crisis unfold along our southern border, as tens of thousands of Central American minors — motivated at least in part by President Obama’s non-enforcement of U.S. immigration law — made a treacherous journey in order to cross illegally into the United States. 

Despite these results, the president has decided to announce yet another unilateral policy change that will dwarf all the others — and also make it that much harder for Congress to pass real immigration reform. Republicans and Democrats alike have ideas for how to improve the system, and many of these ideas command bipartisan support. Indeed, members of both parties agree on measures that would address border security, legal immigration, and legitimate commerce at our ports of entry. We agree on measures that would boost our economy, promote assimilation, and strengthen the rule of law. Yet the president is poised to sabotage the legislative process.

The likely results of his unilateral action are all too predictable. A new amnesty program would send an even louder message to the world that the United States does not enforce its laws. It would prompt more people in Central America to pay smugglers, human traffickers, and drug cartels for transportation through Mexico. It would also harm legal immigration by pushing those who have followed the rules to the back of the line.

So I would ask the president: Why would we want to again encourage young people to make one of the most dangerous migration journeys anywhere in the world? Why would we want to empower the brutal criminals who control Mexico’s smuggling networks? And why would we want to unfairly punish those seeking to immigrate legally?

Failing to get his way in Congress does not give President Obama the right to go around Congress. The American people strongly oppose his executive amnesty, and Republicans will take action to stop it.

— Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is the Senate Republican Whip, and the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security.

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