Since even before Obama actually announced his executive action for immigrants, Republicans have been claiming that the President is a tyrant who is provoking a constitutional crisis by using his administrative powers — even though every single president since Eisenhower has acted unilaterally for immigration.
But a post at by Josh Israel at Think Progress this week makes a very interesting point: members of Congress also have their own unilateral power for halting deportations, and a number of Republicans have used it.
It’s called a private bill. As Think Progress explains:
Any individual U.S. senator or representative can file a “private bill,” proposing relief for a person who has not been granted asylum or citizenship, but still wants to live in the United States. The bill gets assigned to a committee, but almost never comes up for a vote. While in committee, the administration is asked to weigh in on the merits of the person in question. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) almost always allows the individual to stay in the country under “deferred action,” as long as the bill is technically pending in Congress. The end result is that sponsor is unilaterally able to do much the same thing as the “deferred action” granted by President Obama and his predecessors in both parties. At the start of the next Congress, the bill’s sponsor simply re-files the bill, restarting the process.
According to the piece, here’s a partial list of Republicans who have filed such private bills:
- Incoming Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who filed a bill for Meriam Yahya Ibrahim (a Sudanese woman later granted asylum after being sentenced to death for apostasy after converting to Christianity) and her children
- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who filed for Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. capture Osama Bin Laden
- Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), who filed for ohn Cheruiyot Kemboi and Winnie Njeri Kemboi, a married Kenyan couple who had sought asylum
- Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who has protected Alemseghed Mussie Tesfamical from deportation back to Eritrea for the past several Congressional sessions
- Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who filed for Ibrahim Parlak, a controversial Kurdish immigrant
Using powers of office to protect immigrants is something that presidents including Reagan and both Bushes have done, and it’s even something that Republican members of Congress have done. So why is the GOP so against Obama doing it?