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President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security admitted that the Obama administration is close to enacting executive actions to ease deportations for even more groups of illegal immigrants, which could actually undercut the chances that Congress will pass sweeping amnesty legislation this year.
Speaking to PBS’ Judy Woodruff on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, said that the Obama administration is “evaluating our current enforcement priorities” and “evaluating potential revisions to our policies.” He said the administration is looking to possibly extend the Deferred Action program to more illegal immigrants. Currently, that program allows illegal immigrants who are under the age of 30, came to the country before they were 16, and meet various other requirements to get temporary amnesty and work permits.
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Johnson also said that he is taking a “fresh look” at the “very controversial” Secure Communities program which states like California have decided to no longer be a part of. The Secure Communities program, which the Obama administration enacted in 2010, requires local officials to transfer illegal immigrants arrested for crimes to federal authorities for deportation.
He also said that the potential for “homegrown terrorist attacks is something we have to be very concerned about” and cited the Boston Marathon bombers. But he did not mention that students linked to the bombers were illegally in the country after overstaying their student visas.
As Woodruff noted to Johnson, pro-amnesty advocates have been calling Obama the “deporter in chief” to pressure him to loosen deportation laws, even though, as Breitbart News has reported, that notion has been debunked by such conservatives as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and mainstream media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Even Janet Napolitano, Johnson’s predecessor who ushered in the Secure Communities program, has also debunked that assertion.
In addition, as Breitbart News reported Monday, a Center for Immigration Studies report found that the Obama administration released 36,007 immigrants in 2013, many of whom were not deported, even though they were convicted of crimes, including homicide and sexual assault.
In a letter, twenty-two senators recently denounced Obama for threatening the “entire constitutional system” by essentially nullifying the nation’s immigration laws.
“Your actions demonstrate an astonishing disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law, and the rights of American citizens and legal residents,” the senators wrote to President Obama. “Our entire constitutional system is threatened when the Executive Branch suspends the law at its whim and our nation’s sovereignty is imperiled when the commander-in-chief refuses to defend the integrity of its borders.”
Johnson did acknowledge that he also did not want to “preempt” Congress, and pro-amnesty Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have expressed concerns that the Obama administration’s potential use of executive actions to ease deportations may prevent Congress from enacting comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year. Obama has indicated that there were only “two to three months” left to pass amnesty in 2014, which is something Republican leaders have indicated, as well.
Momentum for amnesty legislation stalled after Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) declared that the House GOP’s “immigration principles” amounted to “amnesty.” Republican leaders in the House and Senate then said they would not move forward on immigration legislation unless Obama could prove to them that he would not ignore the country’s immigration laws. Pro-amnesty advocates, though, believing that immigration legislation will be stalled in Congress, are pushing Obama to act unilaterally, while pro-amnesty legislators are fearful that doing so will make it impossible for them to move on any piece of legislation.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and other amnesty advocates are using the threat of executive action to try to push Congress to enact amnesty by August.
“If Congress doesn’t act by the August break, the president is going to do something,” he recently told Roll Call.
Diaz-Balart then asserted that if Obama acts unilaterally on deportations, “the possibility of any further negotiations — of any — disintegrate” and Obama will get to choose the “narrative” on immigration reform issues.