Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Sessions: ‘Colossal Error’ to Pass Immigration Spending Without Blocking ‘Administrative Amnesty’

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Jeff Sessions says it would be “institutional surrender” for the House to advance an immigration spending bill without preventing President Barack Obama from expanding “administrative amnesty” for millions of additional unauthorized immigrants.

The Alabama Republican made that case in a lengthy statement circulated Wednesday afternoon, and he expanded on those views in a brief conversation with CQ Roll Call.

“I think it would be a colossal error to pass any kind of legislation that does not prohibit the president from granting legal status to five or six million people, as he’s indicated he intends to do,” Sessions said. “I’m baffled that the House talking points didn’t deal with that … The House principles didn’t address President Obama’s failure to execute the laws and expressed no concern about that danger.”

Sessions issued his statement in response to a report of recommendations to address the border crisis and the flood of unaccompanied migrant children from a House GOP “working group” led by Rep. Kay Granger of Texas. Appropriators on both sides of the Rotunda are working to put together supplemental legislation, but the two plans are vastly different.

Sessions’ written statement appears below:

“The border crisis is the direct and predictable result of the President’s sustained policies undermining America’s immigration laws. The President’s continued determination to carry out this nullification remains the singular obstacle in the way of restoring lawfulness. It is therefore odd that the House working group did not mention President Obama even once in their released findings. Indeed, they made no mention of the President’s threat of sweeping new executive actions. Multiple reports indicate that these imminent actions are likely to take the form of administrative amnesty and work permits for 5-6 million illegal immigrants. Any attempt at improving the border situation would be rendered utterly void if the President follows through on his dramatic nullification acts. How can Congress ignore this brewing constitutional crisis? In fact, granting the President new funds without tackling these orders would be an institutional surrender to the planned illegality.

The document also appears to cement the idea that anyone who shows up unlawfully at our border is presumptively entitled to an asylum hearing in the United States. This cannot be so. We cannot allow unjustified claims of asylum to overwhelm our system. Also, because the working group does not explicitly demand a narrowing of the conditions for asylum, the end result of their plan may paradoxically be that more illegal immigrants are eventually granted asylum—enticing even greater numbers to arrive on the promise of speedy grants of lawful status.

The border security measures also raise concerns. The document calls for President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security to develop a ‘strategy’ and ‘plan’ to secure the border, which is less than what is actually required to do under current law. Meanwhile, it omits any discussion of restoring collapsed interior enforcement. If portions of this plan are as similar to the Gang of Eight bill as they appear to be, it could open the door to substantial legislative mischief in the Senate. With only days before Congress’ planned adjournment, a better strategy would be to focus on blocking the President’s threat of new executive actions—and insist that he enforce current laws—while these complex proposals are studied and revisited.

Finally, it is curious that the proposal makes no mention of the needs of Americans. Yes, this is a humanitarian crisis. But it is also a legal crisis. And so too is it a crisis for the American people who have begged and pleaded for a lawful system of immigration that serves their interests, protects their jobs, and increases their wages. Republicans should not be timid or apologetic, but present a bold defense of the American people. The House GOP has so far been the last bulwark protecting working Americans; it would be tragic for that defense to buckle in the closing days of this Congress.

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