Republicans broadly slammed President Barack Obama's executive orders to give work permits and defer deportations to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, with some legislators telling Newsmax on Thursday that his unilateral actions amounted to a declaration of war.
"He's throwing down the gauntlet — and this is really a political tactic," said Texas Rep. Steve Stockman. "It's to divide the Republican Party. It has little to do with the people he professes to want to protect."
"That's not what the American people want, to just draw a line in the sand and if you step over it, I'm going to fight you," Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston told Newsmax. "I'm still stunned at his audacity."
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions described Obama's orders as "worse than I thought.
"The whole systematic approach of the chief law enforcement officer in America devising incredibly complex schemes to not enforce the law is stunning," he said.
"It's just a further collapse of law enforcement throughout America and it's the wrong thing to do. It's going to impact Americans in their jobs, in their neighborhoods, in their schools, and in their hospitals."
In a speech from the White House that was televised nationwide on cable TV, Obama announced some of the most sweeping changes to the nation's immigration system in decades.
The orders would protect as many as 5 million illegals from immediate deportation and grant most of them work permits.
Obama said he was acting unilaterally because the House has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation similar to the bipartisan Gang of Eight bill that the Senate approved in June 2013.
"To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill," Obama said. "The real amnesty is leaving this broken system the way it is."
With the president's actions, illegals who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents — those with green cards — would be spared from deportation for three years. They must register with the federal government, pass a background check, and pay taxes.
None of the illegals would be eligible for citizenship or green cards, or federal benefits. They would, however, receive work permits, Social Security numbers — and a guarantee that, unless they commit a serious criminal offense, they would not be deported.
The orders also expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Obama created in 2012 to illegals who were brought to the U.S. as children before 2010, three years beyond the original deadline of June 15, 2007.
But parents of DACA children would not be protected by the new orders. Neither would illegals without children who have been in the U.S. for long periods of time.
The orders also would prioritize deportation against gang members, felons, and suspected terrorists. This is a key component of a new program that replaces the Secure Communities program, which turned over illegals arrested for local crimes to federal immigration authorities.
Obama's actions also would commit more resources to fight illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border and increase salaries for beleaguered Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. This would bring their pay in line with the FBI and other federal policing agencies.
"It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive — only Congress can do that," Obama said during the 15-minute speech. "All we're saying is we're not going to deport you."
Other Republicans were just as enraged at Obama's announcement and vowed to pursue all legal and legislative ways of stopping them.
Sessions, who will chair the Senate Budget Committee in the new GOP-controlled Congress in January, has called for including language in an appropriations bill that would keep the federal government running after Dec. 11 that would defund any efforts to implement Obama's orders.
Two House Republicans, Ted Poe of Texas and Diane Black of Tennessee, earlier Thursday introduced the Separation of Powers Act, which would bar funds for granting any form of relief to illegals.
"President Obama will regret this decision," Black said. "The American public has loudly voiced their objections to the president circumventing Congress like this — and now President Obama has ignored the will of the people and set a terrible precedent for future administrations."
House Speaker John Boehner noted after Obama's speech that he has said at least 22 times that he could not make his own laws or expand any executive orders on immigration without Congress.
"The American people want both parties to focus on solving problems together," the Ohio Republican said. "They don't support unilateral action from a president who is more interested in partisan politics than working with the people's elected representatives. That is not how American democracy works."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus noted how Obama's previous "politically motivated executive order" precipitated the crisis at the South Texas border earlier this year.
"Granting amnesty does not secure our borders," Priebus said. "Sadly, rather than trying to solve our country's immigration problems, the president's actions are intended to poison the legislative process at a time when he should be working to bring Americans together."
Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert called the president's announcement "an oral royal decree that will be followed by a written regal decree, as any good monarch would do.
"This president is single-handedly creating a constitutional crisis and hurting the citizens he took an oath to protect and defend," he said.
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, blasted the orders as "an unprecedented assault on the Constitution, the separation of powers, and the rule of law in the United States.
"President Obama today told millions of people, if you broke our laws to enter this country, we will not prosecute you, we will not deport you," Martin said.
"After months of crafting comprehensive immigration reform behind closed doors and delaying it to shield Democrats up for re-election, the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history is finally announcing the scope of its lawless amnesty," charged Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
"It signals that America is an 'open borders' society with no rules governing entrance except those announced through royal decree," she said.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said that Obama "may have chosen to ignore the American people, but congressional Republicans won't.
"We hear their concerns, and we will take action," Thune said.
Other Republicans also weighed in on Obama's speech:
- Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson: "Rather than find those areas of agreement, he picked a fight. It's a bad way to start a relationship. … And we can defund areas of President Obama's lawlessness."
- Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe: "What does this say to the millions who are going through the proper channels, studying English and using their precious resources to become a U.S. citizen the right way? I will continue to oppose and join efforts to prevent the president's executive amnesty."
- Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon: "Resolving our immigration crisis should not be a partisan issue, but this president continues to make it one because of his defiant actions. Sadly, the reality is that his actions tonight have further deepened the rift between him and Congress and further derailed solving our immigration crisis."
- Texas Rep. Lamar Smith: "President Obama has put the interests of an extreme wing of his party above the interests of American workers. Some have said that the actions he is taking this week equal a declaration of war on Republicans. I believe he is actually declaring war on the American people and our democracy."
- Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA: "President Obama's unconstitutional plan to reward millions of law-breaking foreign citizens with work permits is especially outrageous at a time of labor surplus and sustained wage depression for American workers and legal immigrants already here."
- Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law & Justice: "The action is an unconstitutional power grab of historic proportions by a president whose tenure has centered on governing by overreach. The president is treading on very dangerous ground by issuing an executive order on immigration where there is underlying law in place. The president is changing the law by executive fiat."
- Brent Bozell, conservative activist: "It has been less than one month since the GOP won the House and Senate on their promise to defund this outrageous and unconstitutional overreach. The American people elected a Congress to represent them against a tyrannical government, and they fully expect their lawmakers to make good on their promise to fight it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice: "By going ahead with his executive order nonetheless, President Obama is showing contempt for the American people, ignoring their lack of enthusiasm for his reforms and implying that a more vigorous effort to persuade them is not worth his time and energy. Apparently, Obama can't be bothered with the sometimes-frustrating democratic process that requires either convincing voters that you're right or accepting their judgment to the contrary as expressed through their elected representatives."
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