Conyers Floor Statement on H.R. 5759, an Anti-Immigrant Measure Proposed by House Republicans
Washington, DC, December 4, 2014
Floor Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Mr. Speaker, in one week, the 113th Congress will come to a close without the House having considered a single piece of legislation to fix our nation's broken immigration system. It has been 525 days since the Senate passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would have made meaningful and long overdue reforms. But this chamber still has steadfastly refused to allow an up or down vote on that measure. There is absolutely no question that our immigration system is broken. It is failing our businesses, our economy, and, most importantly, millions of families. Yet, rather than deal with these critical issues, we are here today to vote on yet another symbolic, anti-immigrant measure that has absolutely no chance of being considered in the Senate. I want to be clear; H.R. 5759 is a politically motivated and hastily drafted attempt to once again attack the president, as well as the immigrant families who contribute to our communities and our economy. I say this for several reasons.
First, by blocking the protections offered by the president's actions, this legislation would deprive nearly five million immigrants and their families of the hope that they might finally live without the constant fear of separation and deportation. It would undermine the administration's efforts to devote greater resources towards securing our borders and deporting felons not families. And, this would mean that millions of undocumented immigrants will not be asked to pass national security and criminal background checks and pay their fair share of taxes in order to register for temporary protection from deportation.
Second, this legislation ignores the well-established legal principle that the executive branch must have the authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion to determine how best to use limited immigration enforcement resources. In fact, every president – for more than half a century, both Democratic and Republican – has taken executive action on immigration. For instance, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush established the family fairness program, which was estimated to protect in excess of 1 million undocumented immigrants. Yet their actions generated little opposition and, in fact, were substantively codified by Congress within a matter of months.
In stark contrast, H.R. 5759 falsely claims that President Obama's assertion of that same authority is unlawful. The constitutionality of President Obama's executive order is recognized by both liberal and conservative legal experts. In a letter written last month, 11 prominent legal scholars explained that the president's actions "are within the power of the Executive Branch and that they represent a lawful exercise of the President's authority.’" This letter was signed by such recognized constitutional authorities as Walter Dellinger, who led the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel from 1993-1996, and David Strauss, who formerly worked in the Office of Legal Counsel and the solicitor general's office. It was also signed by liberal professors like Laurence Tribe and conservative professors like Eric Posner. And five days later, 135 immigration law professors echoed that conclusion and provided substantial constitutional, statutory, and regulatory authority for these actions.
Third, H.R. 5759 goes well beyond preventing the president from expanding deferred action for childhood arrivals or creating a program to protect the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from deportation. It would not only prevent this president – but any future president – from protecting discrete categories of individuals facing unique dangers and challenges. This means that no future administration will be able to:
It is for these reasons that this legislation is opposed by numerous organizations that care about making our immigration system work and protecting the most vulnerable among us. This includes the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; the AFL-CIO; The Service Workers International Union, and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women.
I urge my colleagues to oppose this dangerous, anti-immigrant measure and I reserve the balance of my time.