Last month, I wrote about the Republican party focusing on the distrust of the Obama administration roadblocking immigration reform. This framing continues, as the tensions between an executive branch under pressure to get things done and Congress (who apparently feels no such pressure) continues.
Obama issued a statement asking the new head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Jeh Johnson, to “run an ‘inventory’ of the agency’s practices” to “see how the department can ‘conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law.’” Former Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director John Sandweg added his voice to the issue, saying that ICE “should eliminate ‘non-criminal re-entrants and immigration fugitives’ as a priority category for deportation.” This is one of two changes being considered executively, with another being the scaling back of the Secure Communities program.
Within the legislative branch, the House passed the Republican led H.R. 4138, the “Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments of the Law Act of 2014” 233 to 181. If it became law, the bill would limit the executive powers of discretion to do what is being debated about ICE deportation priorities, but also to implement programs like the popular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Note that the Republican Principles released earlier this year supports the DREAMers. While it’s likely that the supporters of H.R. 4138 would argue that the legislative vs. executive is an important distinction, it’s also even more likely that there’s a continued disconnect between the Republican leadership and the rest of the party. Being seen as the party targeting DREAMers will not do the Republicans any favors.
Another vote out of the Republican-controlled house, H.R. 3973, or the “Faithful Execution of the Law Act of 2014” would require executive reporting to Congress any instance of refraining from enforcement, broadly speaking. Neither one of these bills will make it through the Senate to become law, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declared the bills “dead on arrival.”
In an attempt to be seen as the productive party (in our historically unproductive 113th Congress), the House Democrats filed a discharge petition last week for H.R. 15 (the House version of S.744 that has a different section on border enforcement). According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 15 would, in addition to reform the immigration system, also reduce federal budget deficits by $200 billion by 2024. The discharge petition (which would force the bill to the floor regardless of the majority party) has so far failed to obtain enough signatures to be successful.
Late this month, another bill, H.R. 4303, was introduced to the House called the “Border Enforcement Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act of 2014,” which would create a bipartisan oversight commission to, among other things, reduce civil rights violations committed by Customs and Border Patrol agents.
In short: there’s a lot of talking about action and not a whole lot of actual action regarding (anything, but especially) immigration reform.
“Migrationist Monthly” is a new series on The Migrationist. Once a month, we’ll be offering you a rundown of that month’s immigration news for selected countries in 500 words or less.
Josh Breisblatt, “Policy Update: With Reform Stuck in the House, Pressure Increases on the President,” National Immigration Forum, March 28, 2014.
Immigration Policy Center, “What’s on the Menu? Immigration Bills Pending in the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress,” March 26, 2014.