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Goodlatte Warns Deportation Changes Hurt Immigration Overhaul Prospects

Immigration reform in the balance? Goodlatte says he worries Obama's move on deportation could put legislation in peril. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The powerful chairman of a committee dealing with immigration legislation is not happy about the Obama administration's changes to a program for so-called DREAMers.  

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., blasted the Department of Homeland Security's Thursday announcement about the program helping certain undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation.  

It comes only a week after DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson got an earful from Goodlatte and other Judiciary Republicans about the Obama administration's alleged executive overreach and the effect it might have on the House's willingness to move on immigration overhaul legislation this year.  

In a statement, Goodlatte accused Obama administration officials of having "quietly made several changes" to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Barack Obama created through executive order in June 2012 to halt the removals of immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents — referred to as "DREAMers." Goodlatte claimed that the officials "have loosened the educational requirements to allow those who are enrolled in an 'alternative program' (without defining what this means) to benefit from the program." He also took issue with language that would not explicitly require the administration to verify "documentary evidence" that an applicant submits to prove that he or she meets the standards for a stay of deportation.  

"President Obama's extension of his unilaterally-created immigration program not only violates his constitutional duty to enforce the law, but the changes he made to it proactively invite fraud and abuse," Goodlatte said. "The Obama administration's blatant statement that they may not verify information submitted by applicants is pure folly and only encourages unscrupulous people to test the system. And by loosening the education standards, potentially millions more unlawful immigrants who do not meet even basic education requirements will be able to apply for the program.  

"These actions undermine Congress' hard work to reform our immigration laws and also raise serious concerns about the administration's ability and willingness to maintain the integrity of our immigration laws," Goodlatte continued, adding that his committee will continue to probe "the Obama administration's lax immigration enforcement and ... how these changes impact our immigration system."  

The DHS announcement of a process for renewing DACA applications is no surprise. With the first round of approvals set to expire in September, it was time for the administration to provide guidance for how individuals can continue to remain in the country under the program. From the standpoint of the administration and immigration activists, the DACA has been a great success, so there was no indication that the program would be discontinued or deportation deferrals would be allowed to expire.  

“Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers,” Johnson said in a statement. “By the renewal of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great Nation.  

"But," Johnson added, "the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform still lies ahead.”  

Johnson already is facing scrutiny as officials prepare a report for release this summer outlining how Obama may use executive orders to curb some deportations and generally create a more "humane" immigration policy. The idea puts pressure on the House to act by the August recess.  

   

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