By Joe Guzzardi
December 1, 2014
Hard to believe though it is, the 113th Congress’ final two weeks promises to be more contentious than usual. At the maelstrom’s center will be immigration, always the most explosive issue even before President Obama announced his executive action that will remove 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. Congress has been on recess since Obama’s White House speech.
Many House Republicans want to use their power of the purse to block Obama’s immigration decree which they perceive as unconstitutional. Growing rancor over the projected short and long term costs of issuing work permits, social security numbers and government-issued photo IDs has intensified the debate.
Earlier this year, a report leaked that the Obama administration had sent out bid requests for 4 million annual Employment Authorization Documentation cards as well as and permanent resident cards with the supplier capable of printing up to 34 million during the next several years. Printing costs will be in the millions of dollars and, according to the Washington D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, providing entitlements to 5 illegal immigrants over their lifetimes will add $2 trillion to the federal government’s $18 trillion deficit.
Two important committees may decide the Obama order’s fate. The Department of Homeland Security will hold a hearing to discuss how it will affect border security. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is expected to say that the provisions in Obama’s amnesty will beef up an already secure border. Then, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “President Obama’s Executive Overreach on Immigration.”
“Overreach” hints at the direction the committee will go which Arizona U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon’s letter to Harold Rogers, House Appropriations chair, summarized. Salmon, calling Obama’s action “a direct violation of the law” and “contrary” to Americans’ desires, urged Rogers to prohibit funding to process documentation for aliens already living in the U.S.
Rogers is on the hot seat. Recently, he insisted that Appropriations could not withhold funding for specific measures including immigration but is instead obligated to pass an omnibus bill that would include all spending. Congressional Research Service report, however, found that Congress does have the power to block Obama’s action.
In its opinion, CRS wrote that the Supreme Court has recognized that Congress may always circumscribe agency discretion to allocate resources by putting restrictions in the operative statutes. Where Congress has done so, “An agency is not free simply to disregard statutory responsibilities.” Therefore, if a statute were enacted which prohibited appropriated funds from being used for immigration, then “the relevant funds would be unavailable to be obligated or expended for those purposes…”
Rogers’ unwillingness to use his powerful position to derail Obama is one reason that many in the GOP question what the party’s commitment is to deterring illegal immigration. The Chamber of Commerce and other significant Republican donors support legalizing aliens. Through his amnesty pronouncement, Obama did the unpopular work, thus taking the GOP off the hook from having to pass legislation, and allowing it to pursue approaches more popular with its base like border security.
Between today and December 12 when Congress disbands, the template for illegal immigration could be established. Defund work permits, and the incoming Congress has a chance to slow future alien flows. Fund Obama’s program and expect him to issue another action in 2015 that would legalize the remaining 7 million illegal immigrants omitted from his November amnesty. Giving legal status to an aggregate 12 million unlawful immigrants would spur more illegal immigration and take America one step further down the road towards becoming a non-sovereign nation.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]