“Our immigration system is broken, and we need to fix it,” said Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas.“There’s a right way to do this and a wrong way, and unfortunately, the president has chosen the wrong way.”
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, appearing before the committee, countered that he was confident that the action last month, which protects some 5 million people from deportation, was well within the president’s legal authority. He said that Obama only acted after it became clear that House Speaker John Boehner was not going to be able to corral the votes to pass an immigration reform bill, and after midterm elections.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said those border security assurances ring hollow, in light of a border crossing by four Kurdish migrants who entered the U.S. illegally through Texas in September. Although Johnson said in a speech in October that they would be deported, he said during the hearing Tuesday that two of the four actually were released by an immigration judge and made it across the border to Canada, where they are seeking asylum.
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) noted that the people who receive work permits under the new program won’t be eligible to participate in the Affordable Care Act. Employers, he said, might choose to “get rid of the American worker” so they don’t have to provide health insurance under the law.
At another hearing Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), excoriated Obama for “one of the biggest constitutional power grabs ever by a president.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and a former immigration lawyer, said Obama acted within his authority, and only “in the face of congressional inaction.”