By Howard Foster -
The number of legislative days remaining in this Congress is winding down in preparation for summer recess. When it returns after Labor Day the House will be in re-election mode. So if a controversial immigration bill to be passed, it needs to happen soon. For the last year, since the Senate passed a huge immigration bill which gives legal status to all illegal aliens and doubles legal immigration, House Republicans have been troubled. The grassroots is fiercely opposed to the Senate bill. The Chamber of Commerce and virtually all other business and high tech groups want it passed. So far, the grassroots have won out. Every time Speaker Boehner talks about bringing up an immigration bill he gets slapped down.
Now Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has said something truly ominous: unless the House passes an immigration bill he and the President approve of, i.e., with amnesty for all illegals, “the President will have to act on his own.” The President is currently being scrutinized for executive actions which seem to be unauthorized by any law in granting waivers to Obamacare, the Taliban prisoner release deal and others.
Will he exceed what he did in the midst of his 2012 re-election with regard to immigration? Then, shortly before the Democratic convention, he signed an “executive order” granting “provisional legal status” to any illegal immigrant under 18 who was brought into the country by their parents. No such waiver of immigration law was in existence. No matter, it was done and released along with dozens of pages of regulations to facilitate the newly created legal status. Congress was not consulted.
I envision something like that is in the works but on a much larger scale. As the ominous-looking mid-term elections approach, the President wants to mobilize his Hispanic and liberal base. Mass amnesty for all illegal immigrants along with employment authorization could be in the works. With a single pronouncement, the President would change the Immigration and Nationality Act in numerous respects and implement what the House refuses to enact.
This may excite the Democratic vote, but it may also bring on impeachment hearings. The President has overstepped his legal authority so many times, the House may decide it’s had enough. Impeachment begins in the House, and such an arrogation of presidential power may be straw that breaks the camel’s back just as the release of the infamous “smoking gun” tape did to President Nixon in August 1974. By itself, the tape would not have led to impeachment, but it was part of a larger pattern of abuse of power and lying to cover it up.
There has never been anything remotely like an executive order giving legal status to millions of illegal immigrants in our history. The 2012 order affected less than a million teenagers. But if it happens, the consequences may be precisely the opposite of what the President is hoping for.
Howard Foster is an immigration attorney based in Chicago.