WASHINGTON – Three Colorado House Republicans denounced the Obama administration’s announcement that it would stop deporting some illegal aliens as an end-run around Congress.
“If President Obama wants to do something about illegal immigration then I challenge him to submit a proposal to Congress where it can be debated. So far, we’ve seen nothing,” Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma said in a statement.
“It is clear that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed, but the solution should be driven by sound policy instead of election-year politics,” Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Lone Tree said in a statement.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo. Spgs.) criticized the administration’s rule change in bolder terms. “This latest abuse of power by President Obama and his administration is a slap in the face to all American citizens who believe in the rule of law and the Constitution. By unilaterally adopting portions of the so-called DREAM Act, which Congress did not approve, President Obama has shown reckless disregard for the democratic process and for the rule of law,” he said.
The DREAM Act would give many of the nation’s 10 to 12 million illegal aliens a chance to gain legal status. It fell five votes short of the 60 needed for passage in the Senate in December 2010 and has been an issue this year in both the Republican presidential primaries and general election campaign.
The Obama administration’s policy is more liberal in one respect than the original Dream Act, which Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) proposed in April 2001. It allows some illegal immigrants a longer time frame to stay in the country. Instead of threatening to deport a person after age 25, it extends the age limit to 31.
The administration’s policy would allow younger illegal aliens to avoid deportation if they meet the following additional criteria: They have lived in the country continuously for five years, are in school or graduated from high school, are a veteran of the Coast Guard or military; and do not have a felony conviction.
“These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in every single way but one: on paper,” President Obama said in a White House ceremony Friday afternoon.
Colorado’s two Democratic senators endorsed Obama’s decision, but suggested that the administration should go to Congress to make the policy change permanent.
“This announcement will provide much needed relief, certainty and breathing room for Dreamers who attend Denver Public Schools, and hundreds of thousands more across Colorado and the nation. All of our communities are served by a well-educated population and the military service of our young people,” Sen. Michael Bennet, a former superintendent of Denver’s public schools, said in a statement.
“As a Dream Act supporter, I am glad to hear the news today that President Obama is prioritizing deportation efforts on the most dangerous criminal offenders, not children brought here through no fault of their own. Congress still needs to pass the DREAM Act … We cannot fully address the issue of undocumented workers with piecemeal immigration reform,” Sen. Mark Udall said in a statement.
Former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo disagreed with those statements. In an interview, the former presidential and Colorado gubernatorial candidate suggested the decision will worsen the jobless rate. “The whole idea of our immigration policy should be based on our own needs. Adding more laborers doesn’t fit the bill,” he said.
The administration’s decision is expected to affect 800,000 illegal immigrants. It is considered a temporary political victory for amnesty advocates, who have criticized the Obama White House for deporting more than one million people.
The decision is also expected to impact the presidential election this fall, particularly in states like Colorado with a growing Hispanic population, as well as a majority non-Latino population skeptical of giving amnesty to illegal immigrants.