It’s past time to halt amnesty

Published 4:18 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2015

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Just last month, the Republican Congress made a promise to the American people. We promised to fight the Obama administration’s decision to give executive amnesty to many of those in this country illegally.
Last week, the House acted on that promise.

Let’s remember how we got to this point. Last November, in the days following the major Republican victories in the mid-term elections, President Obama announced he would offer temporary legal status to approximately five million people in the United States illegally. This action followed a previous decision by President Obama in 2012 to halt deportations and issue work permits to illegal immigrants who entered the United States before their 16th birthday.

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While I agree that our immigration system is broken and needs reform, executive action from a “lame duck” president is not the way our government should operate. In fact, the president’s action has actually poisoned the well and made it harder to find real, long-term solutions to the immigration debate.

To me, this issue is really about much more than immigration. It is about the separation of powers and ensuring that no one part of government becomes too powerful. Our Founding Fathers were clear when they wrote the Constitution. The Congress makes the laws, and the president should enforce them. President Obama just doesn’t seem to get that.

Just imagine the alarming precedent set by the idea that a president can just unilaterally suspend enforcement of laws with which he may not agree. What would happen if a Republican President chose not to enforce the Clean Air Act? My colleagues on the other side of the aisle would rise up with frustration and indignation. But that is exactly what is happening in our country today.

So the House was left with little choice but to pass legislation that would halt the President’s plan for executive amnesty. The House passed H.R. 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. Primarily, the legislation provided funding for major homeland security agencies and functions.

I was pleased to support an amendment to a bill written by my friend, Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt, which would prevent any funds from being used to carry out President Obama’s plan to grant amnesty to those in our country illegally. This tough amendment, which had the support of many leading voices in the immigration debate, like Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, was adopted and included in the final bill.

As I have repeatedly said, any conversation on illegal immigration must start with border security. In order to truly stem the flow of illegal immigrants, we must use all available resources to ensure our border is truly secure.

That’s why the underlying legislation boosted funding for important agencies and programs relating to border security. The bill increased funding for Customs and Border Protection, allowing for the largest operational force in the agency’s history.

Additionally, the legislation increased the budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to fund detention programs. Just as important, the bill provided full funding of E-Verify, which is used to check the legal status of prospective employees.
In order to halt illegal immigration in this country, we must stop encouraging illegal immigration by offering amnesty and instead put more attention on actually securing our borders. That is the exact approach taken in the legislation passed by the House last week.

I hope the Senate will soon act on the House-passed legislation. We cannot and will not sit back idly and allow the president to trample our Constitution. We must right the scales of balance and restore our system of checks and balances.