Despite the unanimous opposition of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, the Republican-controlled U.S. House voted last week to urge the Supreme Court to block President Barack Obama’s efforts to reduce the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
The near-party line vote took the unusual step of authorizing House Speaker Paul Ryan to file a brief with the court on behalf of the entire House taking issue with Obama’s never-implemented order to defer deportations, the key issue in a current case from Texas.
Democrats, joined by five Republicans, argued against the GOP maneuver that bypassed the normal procedure for legislators to weigh in on court cases. Many also endorsed Obama’s bid to help more undocumented immigrants stay in the country.
The president “took critical steps under his legal authority to keep families from being torn apart,” said U.S. Rep. John Larson.
“Unfortunately, instead of trying to work constructively to move immigration reform forward, Republicans have decided to try to block the President’s commonsense actions through the courts,” he said in a prepared statement.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said he agrees that “if Congress will not enact comprehensive immigration reform, the executive branch must act to keep otherwise law-abiding families together and allow them to pursue the American dream.”
The court is eyeing the legality of presidential executive orders that would allow nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and work if they were brought to the U.S. as children — the so-called “dreamers” — or if they have children who are U.S. citizens.
Himes said he hopes the court “will act justly and in the best interests of families and the nation” and that lawmakers will take the initiative themselves “to fix our country’s broken immigration system to make us a more compassionate and prosperous nation.”
All of the state’s congressional representatives and its two senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, signed on to a separate brief filed in early March that sided with Obama. They are all Democrats.
Larson said that following the 234-186 House vote on Thursday — which said Obama’s officials “acted in a manner that is not consistent with their duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States” — Ryan plans to file one purporting to speak for the entire House “that says just the opposite” of the brief filed by Democrats.
“Essentially, Speaker Ryan is asking for the authority to speak on behalf of members who do not agree with the anti-immigrant sentiments we keep hearing from some on the other side. That is not right,” Larson said.
An Iowa congressman, Republican Steve King, said during the debate that the House has voted repeatedly to thwart Obama’s interpretation of the law without success. He said it had “exhausted our remedies” with the exception of taking a stand to express “the voice of the House” directly to the high court.
U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, a New Jersey Republican, said he has long opposed “President Obama’s illegal amnesty program” and is sure “the proper venue to challenging the president’s overreaching actions is primarily in the courts of this country.”
A Minnesota Democrat, Keith Ellison, told colleagues the president’s “executive action is right for American families, and right for our economy, and right for our society.”
“Republicans won’t acknowledge that immigration and immigrants are an important part of the society that we live in,” Ellison said.
Both Himes and Larson said that instead of fighting in court, it would be far better for the House to vote on immigration reform, a hotly contested issue on the campaign trail that the GOP leadership has refused to bring to the floor.