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Top Judiciary Republicans Demand Answers on DACA Changes

Grassley is one of two top Republicans questioning changes on the DACA website. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Top Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary committees are asking the Obama administration to explain changes made this summer to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that they say loosen requirements and invite fraud.  

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Charles E. Grassley of Iowa sent Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson a list of 25 questions Friday on revisions to the 2012 executive order.  

The lawmakers zeroed in on a change made to the DACA website's "Frequently Asked Questions" page that states officials "may verify information" submitted on applicant documents — imprecise language, Grassley and Goodlatte contend, that does not require the government to actually verify anything.  

"Since the initial announcement regarding DACA, we ... have written several letters to your Department requesting data and general information about DACA," Goodlatte and Grassley wrote to Johnson. "We have rarely received substantive responses. Congress is entitled to know how this administration is managing the program and to whom it is providing lawful status." "We understand that on a June 5, 2014, conference call with Congressional staff, a USCIS employee stated that, 'generally the majority of documents we receive are valid.' Please forgive us if that simple 'assurance' does not quell our concerns about the very real prevalence of fraud in immigration benefits application," Goodlatte and Grassley continued.  

Goodlatte took issue with the changes at the time, arguing that there would be no explicit requirement for the the administration to verify “documentary evidence” that an applicant submits to prove that he or she meets the standards for a stay of deportation. He also challenged what he deemed new "loosened" education requirements "to allow those who are enrolled in an 'alternative program' (without defining what this means) to benefit from [DACA]."  

The letter from Goodlatte and Grassley comes as President Barack Obama, in conjunction with Johnson and other administration officials, is weighing broad executive action to expand DACA's reach and grant stays of deportation to the families of DACA participants, the "Dreamers."  

Republicans on Capitol Hill have chafed at what they call executive overreach, saying any attempt by Obama to go around Congress now will poison the well when it comes to pushing a more comprehensive and bipartisan overhaul of the nation's broken immigration system through Congress later.  

The House GOP took an especially strong stance against DACA before leaving for the five-week August recess, voting on a bill that would stop the expansion of the program to enroll new participants. Only 11 Republicans voted against it.  

Read Goodlatte and Grassley's letter here .  

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