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Lamar Smith: Obama's amnesty for illegal immigrants is against the law

The Obama administration decision for immunity from deportation for young illegal immigrants is a breach of faith with Americans. It also blatantly ignores the law. This isn't the first time Obama has waived rules or refused to enforce laws against illegal immigration, writes Rep. Smith.

By Lamar Smith / June 15, 2012

President Obama responds June 15 as he is interrupted while announcing that his administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants. Op-ed contributor Rep. Lamar Smith writes that to 'ignore Congress and the Constitution is exactly what the president has done.'

Susan Walsh/AP

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Washington

It’s said that desperate times call for desperate measures. But in these dismal economic and political times, the Obama administration has called for unlawful measures that grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants.

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Today, Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, announced immunity from deportation for illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and who are younger than 30 – among other criteria. They can apply for a two-year work permit that can be renewed indefinitely.

The decision is not just a breach of faith with the American people. It blatantly ignores the rule of law that is the foundation of our democracy.

In an interview with Univision television earlier this year, President Obama said that he can’t just “waive away the laws that Congress put in place” and that “the president doesn’t have the authority to simply ignore Congress and say, ‘We’re not going to enforce the laws that you’ve passed.’”

But ignore Congress and the Constitution is exactly what the president has done –  and this isn’t the first time. Throughout the past three years of his administration, Mr. Obama has waived applying several of our immigration rules and has refused to enforce other immigration laws.

Earlier this year, administration officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) outlined their plan to ignore a rule that requires illegal immigrants to leave the US before they can then ask the federal government to waive a law that bans them from legally returning here for several years.

While the waiver of this rule is sometimes allowed under current law, it is only applied on a case-by-case basis, not to entire categories of illegal immigrants. But Obama and his administration have bent these established rules by applying them to potentially millions of illegal immigrants.

And this decision comes on the heels of an even larger plan to reward illegal immigrants. Last year, political appointees at DHS issued new deportation guidelines to target illegal immigrants that have been identified by DHS. That amounts to backdoor amnesty and strikes another blow at the 13 million unemployed American workers.

Under Obama’s deportation policy, DHS officials review all incoming and most pending cases before an immigration court to determine if the illegal immigrant can remain in the US. Since DHS political appointees have made clear that many illegal immigrants are not considered “priorities” for removal, this means that potentially millions of illegal immigrants can remain in the US without a vote of Congress.

The administration’s amnesty policy, expanded once again, not only violates the rule of law, it only benefits illegal immigrants, not Americans, and is a magnet for fraud. Many illegal immigrants will falsely claim they came here as children or are under the age of 30 and the federal government has no way to check whether their claims are true.

And once these illegal immigrants are granted deferred action, they can then apply for a work permit, which the administration routinely grants 90 percent of the time. This could put even more US citizens on the unemployment rolls.

Ignoring Congress and the Constitution may be politically convenient for President Obama, but this huge policy shift has horrible consequences for unemployed Americans looking for jobs. It violates the president’s oath to uphold the laws of this land.

It doesn’t matter how bleak poll numbers are or how low campaign coffers may be, the president of the United States cannot ignore the rule of law.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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