Republican lawmakers fear immigration-reform legislation gives too much authority to the secretary of homeland security to enforce the most important provisions in the bill.
“I’m concerned that the bill provides unfettered and unchecked authority to you and your department and your successors,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and top-ranking member of the Judiciary panel, told Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Under the bill before the Senate, the homeland security secretary would have sole power to set standards for border security and then make a judgment when the borders are sufficiently secure to start opening the path to permanent legal residency for the 11 million illegal immigrants.
“On almost every-other page, there is language that allows the secretary to waive certain provisions of law,” Grassley said during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.
“The secretary may define terms as she sees fit. She can excuse certain behavior, determine what documentation or evidence is acceptable and exempt various criminal actions as grounds of inadmissibility,” he added, according to The Hill.
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Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn was another doubter. “I’m concerned about the waivers and discretion,” he said. “Congress should accept the responsibility for setting the standards ourselves instead of delegating it.”
And Sen. Mike Lee of Utah weighed in on the danger of allowing the secretary ultimately to determine when immigrants would get provisional legal status.
“These things are all tied to certain metrics. You could diminish the significance of those trigger points or those conditions if you give excessive discretion to the secretary.”
The current bill would give the homeland security secretary full responsibility for developing the U.S. border plan. It also would allow the department to waive key elements of the law concerning criminals.
Napolitano tried to assure the panel that the administration would focus on border security as a top priority before granting immigrants provisional legal status.
But lawmakers remained unconvinced of the wisdom behind delegating authority to the secretary over as much as $6.5 billion without congressional oversight.
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