Updated, 6:40 p.m., May 21 | Republicans have warned President Barack Obama that executive orders on immigration won't get the House to act any faster — if at all — on overhaul legislation this year. Speaker John A. Boehner reminded the administration of that fact again on Wednesday afternoon.
The Ohio Republican released a statement slamming Obama for designating a national monument in New Mexico without also putting mechanisms in place to secure the southwest border, a popular crossing for illegal immigrants seeking entry into the United States.
"For many months I have warned that the president's fondness for unilateral action has created widespread doubt among the American people that he and his administration can be counted on to enforce any laws he signs, particularly when it comes to securing our nation's borders and reforming our immigration system," said Boehner. "The president's announcement today intensifies those concerns, demonstrating a level of audacity that is remarkable even for this administration." Boehner's statement comes on the heels of a letter sent to Obama just two days earlier from Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who chairs the House Natural Resources subcommittee with jurisdiction over public lands. Bishop urged against designating any new monument at the U.S.-Mexico border out of concern for the violence that occurs there.
On Wednesday, he, too, expressed unhappiness with Obama's unilateral designation of the space.
"“The President may have felt pressured to do something nice for his special interest group allies," Bishop said in a statement, "but he shouldn’t have done it at the expense of the safety of the country."
There is already legislation pending in the House and Senate to create an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in south-central New Mexico; both bills include provisions to secure the borders.
The House bill is sponsored by New Mexico Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who accused Obama of a "land grab."
"The President's decision ... shows his contempt for the legislative branch," Pearce said in a statement of his own. "For years, I have worked to find a collaborative solution to permanently protect the Organ Mountains and promote true economic opportunity for my constituents. With this land grab, the President is once again going out of his way to derail any attempt for form a consensus, and do what local people want.
"Residents of Dona Ana County deserve the assurance that first responders and Border Patrol can protect the public, flood control structures will be maintained, ranchers will have their grazing rights, and hunters can have the access they've always enjoyed," added Pearce, who has expressed conditional support for some legislative fix to the nation's immigration laws in the 113th Congress.
But other lawmakers from the region praised the news, among them New Mexico Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who said that Obama was acting on behalf of a state beleaguered by an economic slump, where residents couldn't wait any longer for Congress to act on bills indefinitely stalled in the legislative pipeline.
"New Mexico's got incredible natural areas and we've been waiting years for attention to these designations," Lujan Grisham told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday evening. "The president was advised by the Chamber, businesses independently, community leaders, state leaders and stakeholders. He's got a responsibility to those individual constituents ... I think he was right on and I'm glad that he used his executive order."
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., who is the ranking member to Bishop's chairman on the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, accused Republicans of using border security concerns as a "red herring."
"There are memorandums of understanding between Homeland Security and the Park Service and Forest, both say that it's working well, there's nothing that prevents full access by Border Security and Homeland Security to an area, there's joint management. So it's taken care of," Grijalva explained in a brief interview with CQ Roll Call. "This is a low-hanging fruit. It has nothing to do with the designation. It has to do with the rationale against immigration reform."
Read Boehner's full statement below:
“For many months I have warned that the president’s fondness for unilateral action has created widespread doubt among the American people that he and his administration can be counted on to enforce any law he signs, particularly when it comes to securing our nation’s borders and reforming our immigration system. The president’s announcement today intensifies those concerns, demonstrating a level of audacity that is remarkable even for this administration. Once again, the president has chosen to bypass the legislative branch -- and, in this case, do so in a manner that adds yet another challenge in our ongoing efforts to secure our Southern border. At a time of continued cartel violence in Mexico, we should not be putting any additional restraints on efforts to protect our borders. “What’s particularly disappointing is that even Senate Democrats recognized the need for additional border security protections, including them in their own legislation on this issue. Yet the president and his administration have chosen to ignore those efforts, and the concerns that its new restrictions will place additional burdens on Border Patrol personnel and limit access to high crime areas along the border, making it easier for drug smugglers and human traffickers to move in and out of the country. Today’s announcement will also limit access to these areas by local law enforcement who are vital to our efforts to prevent crime and counter drug activity in our border regions. The president should fix this immediately and make sure that federal and local officials have the access and tools they need to secure our borders and address the violent crime that has become all too commonplace along our Southern border.”