In a recent interview, President Barack Obama said he can’t just “wave away the laws that Congress put in place” and that “the president doesn’t have the authority to simply ignore Congress and say, ‘We’re not going to enforce the laws that you’ve passed.’”
But that is exactly what the president has done — ignored our immigration laws. Throughout the three years of his administration, Obama has waived applying several of our immigration rules and has refused to enforce other immigration laws.
Last month, Obama administration officials at the Department of Homeland Security outlined their plan to ignore a rule that requires illegal immigrants to leave the United States before they can ask the federal government to waive a law that bans them from legally returning here for several years.
While the waiver of this rule is sometimes allowed under current law, it is only applied on a case-by-case basis, not to entire categories of illegal immigrants. But Obama and his administration are bending these long-established rules by applying them to potentially millions of illegal immigrants.
And this proposal comes on the heels of an even larger plan to reward illegal immigrants. Last year, political appointees at DHS issued new deportation guidelines that amount to back-door amnesty for illegal immigrants and strike another blow at the 13 million unemployed American workers.
Under Obama’s deportation policy, DHS officials review all incoming and most pending cases before an immigration court to determine whether the illegal immigrant can remain in the United States. Because DHS political appointees have made it clear that many illegal immigrants are not considered “priorities” for removal, this means that potentially millions of illegal immigrants can remain here without a vote of Congress.
These changes made to our deportation policy could also allow illegal immigrants to receive a work permit and could put even more U.S. citizens on the unemployment rolls. In fact, when illegal immigrants are allowed to stay and apply for work authorization, the Obama administration grants it 90 percent of the time.
The president also routinely neglects to enforce our immigration laws. His administration has all but abandoned work-site enforcement efforts. During the past three years, work-site enforcement efforts fell 70 percent.
Under the Obama administration, there have been fewer arrests of illegal workers, fewer criminal arrests, fewer indictments and fewer convictions. As a result, 7 million illegal immigrants continue to work in the United States, forcing unemployed American workers to compete with them for scarce jobs.
In addition, the Obama administration sues states that try to help enforce federal immigration laws. The administration has filed suit against Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina for their laws designed to reduce illegal immigration and protect American workers.
At the same time, the Obama administration looks the other way when states and localities undermine federal immigration laws. The administration has ignored efforts by Illinois, Massachusetts and New York to stop participating in Secure Communities, a program that keeps our neighborhoods safe by identifying illegal and criminal immigrants in police custody who have been arrested and fingerprinted.
The administration has also refused to penalize “sanctuary” cities that blatantly defy federal immigration laws and release criminal immigrants onto our streets and into our communities.
Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. The president’s actions speak volumes about his intent to reward those who have broken our immigration laws.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.