The Obama administration's directive to keep illegal immigrant parents of minor children in the United States "poisons the debate" on immigration reform, Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte argues.
On Friday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department issued a policy saying that immigration agents should try not to arrest and deport illegals who have minor children, reports The Washington Times.
Instead, agents should use "prosecutorial discretion" to avoid detaining parents, and if the parents end up being detained they should be able to visit their children and take part in family court hearings.
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But Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary committee, said the new directive "poisons the debate surrounding immigration reform" while showing the administration doesn't take fixing immigration laws seriously.
"President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws by directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants,” Goodlatte said in a statement.
"The primary reason why our immigration system is broken today is because our immigration laws have largely been ignored by past and present administrations. It’s imperative that we prevent this from happening again by taking away the enforcement 'on/off' switch from the president.”
The new directive is being praised by civil rights groups, and is the latest of a series of guidelines being issued as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano works on priorities about who will be detained or deported.
There are only funds to deport about 400,000 illegal immigrants a year, Napolitano said, out of the estimated 11 million living in the United States. Setting such guidelines allows the United States to focus deportation efforts on serious criminals, she has said.
Napolitano last year issued the "Dreamers" policy, which allowed tentative legal status for young illegals brought in as children, and since that time, more than 430,000 of them have had their legal status approved.
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