House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, blasted President Barack Obama’s new immigration policy in a letter to the president Wednesday.
The congressman demanded that Obama defend the legal basis for his decision, The Hill reports.
The president announced last Friday that he was halting the deportation of some young illegal immigrants. The order could apply to 800,000 people.
The rules offer "amnesty" to lawbreakers, Smith writes. "Your administration's decision to abandon our democratic principles and impose this policy without legislation flies in the face of the intent of our Founders. And it raises serious constitutional questions about the legitimacy of the policy."
Smith wants Obama to fork over "any legal opinions from the Justice Department regarding what authority the administration has to impose immigration policies without congressional approval."
Many Republicans have noted that Obama himself said last September that he doesn’t have the legal power to stop deportations with an executive order. The new policy is technically an extension of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) "prosecutorial discretion" rather than an executive order.
But that doesn’t satisfy Smith. "The American people and Congress have a right to know what your legal justification is for engaging in an action that a little over one year ago you believed was beyond the scope of the authority of the Executive Branch," he wrote.
In a separate letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, head of DHS' U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services branch, Smith requested an explanation of how the department will deter fraud related to the new policy.
"Illegal immigrants will be eager to purchase fake documents showing that they arrived in the United States before the age of 16," he wrote. "And many ‘entrepreneurs’ will be eager to meet the demand for fake documents."
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