Hatch calls for defunding immigration executive action

Image composite, St. George News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Orrin Hatch spoke on the Senate Floor Tuesday in support of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, H.R. 240, calling for the president to work with Congress instead of conducting unilateral executive actions on immigration.

Hatch has long been an advocate for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform through a legislative solution. A few select quotes from his speech:

On the president’s executive action

With his latest move in the field of immigration, President Obama seeks not only to prevent enforcement proceedings against millions of people unlawfully present in this country, but also to license their unlawful presence with affirmative work permits. In doing so, he not only ignores the duly enacted laws of the land, but also seeks to unilaterally replace them with his own contradicting policies.

On the House bill defunding the president’s executive action

Faced with this brazen lawlessness, the House of Representatives passed a bill that both funds our critical Homeland Security priorities and fulfills our duty to respond to the President’s lawless executive actions. This is a careful line to walk, and our colleagues deserve praise for their admirable work. Their bill represents a responsible governing approach by funding our critical Homeland Security needs while preventing President Obama’s constitutional abuse.

When faced with such a sensible approach, I have frankly been shocked and dismayed by the opposition that many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have expressed to this bill. On the floor today, many of my colleagues have indicated that they will oppose letting us vote on Homeland Security funding—and even on amendments to the bill—unless we allow President Obama’s executive action to come into effect.

(report continues below)

Video courtesy of the Offices of Sen. Orrin Hatch

The full speech, as prepared for delivery:

Mme. President, I rise today to discuss a matter of utmost importance: the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, H.R. 240.

Mme. President, we live in a world of extraordinary threats.

Around the world, terrorists continue to devise ways to harm Americans and our interests. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, we see a resurgent al-Qaeda, which continues to plot attacks from its increasingly ungoverned safe-havens. Throughout the broader Middle East, we see al-Qaeda’s affiliate groups—from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to al-Shabbab—posing a sophisticated new threat. In Iraq and Syria, we see the self-proclaimed Islamic State controlling vast swaths of territory, shocking the world with its brutality, and announcing its deadly-serious intent to kill Americans. And within Western societies, we see the potential for radicalization at home, the danger of which has been made manifest in the attacks on Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris.

Inside the United States, the Department of Homeland Security serves as our critical line of defense against many of these threats at critical points—from our borders to our airports to our coasts and ports.

In the realm of cyberspace, criminals, terrorists, and other nations’ governments present sophisticated threats on a variety of fronts. Defending against these many serious threats requires efforts that range from securing critical infrastructure to guarding against the sort of espionage and blackmail that Sony recently experienced. These are enormously difficult tasks, especially in an ever-changing high-tech operating environment.

As the agency charged with protecting civilian networks and coordinating on cyber-defense issues with the private sector, the Department of Homeland Security stands at the crossroads of our nation’s defense against this next generation of threats.

And when the dangers we face are natural rather than manmade, the Department plays no less of a critical role. From hurricanes and tornados to volcanoes and forest fires, the Department’s component agencies—such as FEMA and the Coast Guard—play a critical role in the preservation of lives and property.

The House-passed bill provides the Department with nearly $40 billion dollars in funding, a level consistent with the Budget Control Act’s spending limits. That money will not only fund the critical programs I have mentioned so far, but will also provide critical improvements on a wide range of fronts, including for:

  • More Border Patrol agents;
  • New ICE detention facilities;
  • Increased funding for E-Verify;
  • More effective security screening at our airports;
  • Improved Secret Service protection;
  • Increased support for cyber-defense;
  • And important disaster relief.

These provisions all enjoy broad bipartisan support, and I commend my colleagues on the Appropriations Committees for their hard work on this package. But this work has been complicated by a troubling development: by some of my colleagues—almost all Democrats—actively seeking to block consideration of this vitally important funding.

Why? Only because they seek to protect a President of their own party who has acted lawlessly and overstepped proper constitutional bounds. Instead of following the examples of great senators of the past, who stood up to presidents of their own party on behalf of the Constitution and the rule of law, today we have witnessed far too many senators instead shamefully toe the party line.

Mme. President, our nation’s Founders knew, in the sage words of Montesquieu, that “in all tyrannical governments . . . the right both of making and of enforcing the laws is vested in one and the same man, . . . and wherever these two powers are united together, there can be no public liberty.” For this reason, when drafting the Constitution, the Framers divided power—between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and between the federal government and the states.

Despite these constitutional foundations, President Obama has decided that he “won’t take no for an answer” when Congress refuses to go along with his agenda. In direct opposition to our centuries-old system of legislation and to the binding authority of the Constitution, the President has audaciously declared that “when Congress won’t act, I will.”

And he has followed up these threats with a variety of unilateral executive actions, many of which are flatly inconsistent with the law and the Constitution.

Over the past weeks and months, I have come to the Senate floor to speak out about a series of specific instances that exemplify the brazen lawlessness of this administration. This pervasive and illegitimate overreach has come in many different forms.

With his latest move in the field of immigration, President Obama seeks not only to prevent enforcement proceedings against millions of people unlawfully present in this country, but also to license their unlawful presence with affirmative work permits. In doing so, he not only ignores the duly enacted laws of the land, but also seeks to unilaterally replace them with his own contradicting policies.

The President and his allies in this chamber want nothing more than to turn this into a debate about immigration policy. But that is not what this debate is about. Immigration is a complex and divisive issue, and Americans hold a wide variety of views on the matter that don’t always divide neatly on partisan lines. Many conservatives—myself included—share some of the same policy goals as President Obama.

Instead, this is a debate about loyalty. As senators, where do our loyalties lie? Do we owe our loyalties first to the Constitution, to the protection of the American people, and to the goal of lawful and lasting immigration reform? Or do we owe our loyalty out of reflexive partisanship to a President bent on dangerous unilateralism?

Mme. President, President Obama’s executive action is a direct affront to our system of republican self-government. The Constitution vests legislative authority with Congress, not the President alone. Instead, the President is charged with the duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. This is not a suggestion or an invitation for the President to enforce the law—it is an obligation for him to do so.

The President and his executive branch exercise prosecutorial discretion—the discretion to choose not to prosecute certain cases. But that power stems from considerations of fairness and equity in particular cases. Instead of requiring individualized determinations in specific cases, the President’s latest action sweeps up millions of people based on only a few broad, widely shared criteria.

An administration of course cannot prosecute when there are not sufficient resources to do so. But the Obama administration has never explained how these executive actions would save money. In fact, the administration’s own policy advisors have acknowledged that a work permitting program will be expensive and will actually take away resources from law enforcement.

And while no one disagrees that capturing and removing violent criminals should be our highest immigration priority, President Obama has gone much further and made current immigration law essentially dead letter for millions of illegal immigrants.

Despite the administration’s claim to the contrary, President Obama’s action is not comparable to the executive actions taken by President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. Even the Washington Post’s editorial board found that claim by the White House to be “indefensible.” Presidents Reagan and Bush simply implemented the enforcement priorities established in laws that Congress actually passed.

By contrast, President Obama has sought to change the law before Congress has acted, so he cannot rely on Congress’s authority to enforce the policy he prefers. Indeed, President Obama has acted directly in the face of congressional opposition, and we should call his Executive Order what it is: an attempt to bypass the constitutionally ordained legislative process and rewrite the law unilaterally.

Perhaps the most persuasive case against this disturbing unilateralism was laid out by President Obama himself. On at least 22 different occasions since he took office, the President acknowledged that he lacked the legal authority to carry out these actions. As he himself said, by broadening immigration enforcement carve-outs, “then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option. . . . . What I’ve said is there is a path to get this done, and that’s through Congress.”

Faced with this brazen lawlessness, the House of Representatives passed a bill that both funds our critical Homeland Security priorities and fulfills our duty to respond to the President’s lawless executive actions. This is a careful line to walk, and our colleagues deserve praise for their admirable work. Their bill represents a responsible governing approach by funding our critical Homeland Security needs while preventing President Obama’s constitutional abuse.

When faced with such a sensible approach, I have frankly been shocked and dismayed by the opposition that many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have expressed to this bill. On the floor today, many of my colleagues have indicated that they will oppose letting us vote on Homeland Security funding—and even on amendments to the bill—unless we allow President Obama’s executive action to come into effect.

Mme. President, senators of both political parties have often stood up to executive encroachment—not for partisan gain or political grandstanding, but in defense of Congress as a coordinate and coequal branch of government with its own essential authorities and responsibilities.

Implicit in the constitutional design of separating the federal government’s powers is the idea that each branch would have the incentive and authority to resist encroachments from the other branches, ensuring that unfettered power is not concentrated in any one set of hands.

The Founders recognized this as indispensable to preserving the individual liberty of all citizens. For as Madison counseled in Federalist 51: “[T]he great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.”

Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia embodied this institutional ideal as much as anyone with whom I have served. Although he helped lead this body for more than a half century and left us less than five short years ago, I was surprised and dismayed to learn recently that nearly half of current members never served alongside him.

Senator Byrd fiercely defended this body’s prerogatives and independence against the encroachments of the executive branch. And he neither censored his criticisms nor weakened his defenses based on the President’s political party. Even in his twilight years, when President Obama took office with extraordinarily high approval ratings, Senator Byrd was willing to hold the new president’s feet to the fire to defend the Senate’s right to give advice and consent to nominees.

He publicly chastised the new White House for its excessive reliance on czars, observing that unconfirmed policy chieftains “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.”

Mme. President, how far we have fallen since the days of Senator Byrd.

Indeed, this brinksmanship by my colleagues in the minority represents the height of irresponsibility:

They risk our Homeland Security funding at a time when our terrorist enemies have repeatedly demonstrated a renewed capability to threaten the homeland;

They risk our very system of constitutional government by sacrificing our power to make the laws and the President’s duty to enforce them;

And they risk many of the immigration reform goals that are shared across party lines.

Mme. President, I am committed to making real progress toward implementing lasting immigration reform. I supported the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill last year. Even though the bill was far from perfect, I voted for it because I believe in working together to make much-needed progress on this vitally important issue.

As I have long argued, the way to get real immigration reform back on track is not for the President and his allies to insist on his my-way-or-the-highway approach. Responsible legislating—not unilateralism—is the right way forward on immigration. The President’s executive action risked the opportunity for meaningful bipartisan progress and undermined the Constitution in the process. And now, his allies in this chamber are apparently willing to risk the security of our nation at a time of extreme danger just to close partisan ranks to provide political cover to the President.

Mme. President, if my colleagues in both parties are serious about protecting our Constitution’s separation of powers and the liberty it ensures, if they are committed to protecting Americans from the sorts of terrorist attacks that we have lately witnessed with alarming frequency, and if they are committed to working together to achieve lasting immigration reform the right way, I urge them to reconsider their vote earlier today and to agree to — at the very least — debate this critically important bill.

Thank you, Mme. President.

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15 Comments

  • Brian February 4, 2015 at 6:45 am

    The kings unconstitutional amnesty plan, which gives billions of dollars in tax credits to those working here illegally (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/3/irs-offers-extra-tax-refunds-to-illegal-immigrants/) needs to be overturned. What good is the Constitution if it isn’t followed? And without it, what rights do we have? I’m not a Hatch fan, but he’s right on this. The claim that “since congress won’t act I have to” is a lie. The Constitution was designed with checks and balances and separation of powers intentionally, to purposely create stalemates where they should exist in the first place. Controversial things should be hard to get done, and should take time. The worst amendments to the Constitution have all come when those checks and balances have been broken (the creation of the federal reserve, the 17th amendment, etc).

    • BIG GUY February 4, 2015 at 7:51 am

      You’re right on, BRIAN. I support more liberal immigration but Obama’s presidential order is clearly unconstitutional. What will Obama do next “since Congress won’t act?” Does he see any limit to his authority?

      As for those who would point to Republican presidents’ executive orders, I offer the following challenge. Name one that a) affected even one-hundredth as many people and b) was opposed by Democrats. I’m ready to be enlightened.

  • Simone February 4, 2015 at 9:39 am

    A 5 second Google search for ‘executive orders by republican presidents that were opposed by democrats” brought me here. I did another google for “how many democrats opposed the 13th amendment?” and got this at the top of the page.

    • BIG GUY February 4, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks, SIMONE, I had completely forgotten that Democrats were the pro-slavery party in the 1850s and 1860s. But that executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, isn’t one that today’s Democrats cite when trying to justify Obama’s unconstitutional immigration order. Their party’s roots are an embarrassment to liberals today: we all have skeletons on our closets that we’d just as soon forget.

      Can anyone find a 20th or 21st century Republican president’s executive order that affected anything close to the 5 million illegals Obama’s order does and that Democrat’s opposed?

      • Simone February 4, 2015 at 4:56 pm

        I’ll be honest. I looked for a good 15-20 minutes and dint find anything. Everythig pretty much before Obama is hard to find. What i did find would lead me to believe that The majority of democrats either agreed with or held enough power in one or both legislative houses to reverse an executive order they disagreed with. The best o could find was a book linked here about executive order 11246 which Reagan was considering amending in the 1980s according to what I read. This phenomena brings about a goo question; Why didnt more democrats oppose more executive orders by republicans. Could it be because it wasn’t fasionable at the time to oppose legislation that made it safer and easier for the general pubic to do things like get jobs and travel safely on airplanes as well as be able to afford their healthcare? Since Kennedy, the democrats have started most of the public programs we take for granted today. Im talking about programs like Head Start, Equal employment, The Civil rights Act, DOMA and bringing about an end to DOMA Welfare to work, medicare/medicaid, the list goes on and on. To summarize big guy, a better question might be” what did Republicans do before Obama to limit the government most of them claim to want to do today? Before you answer though, think about this: The TSA and DHS were signed into law by a Republican. Both presidents Bush and Reagan took steps to ease immigration laws making it easier for illegals to enter and stay. If you ask me the Republicans are all lip service about h they hate the government but lets be honest, they don’t. In fact based on the actions of their predecessors, I would argue that they are only opposing Obama most of their constituents are old, obese, men who care more about showing off their newest gun and how much money they have in their pockets then they do about the American people.

        oh and before anyone thinks to reply about how bad the Affordable Care Act is let me say this: Yes it’s terrible. but here;s the thing, i read all 900 pages of the law and watched as the law changed from when the majority of it went into action in 2010 to when it took full effect in 2012. The law, as originally written would have made the system a single-payer system similar to the NHS in the U.K that has been so successful since it was enacted 60 years ago. it was, in my opinion, a good law. One where everyone paid for everyone else. no more $100,000 a weekend bills from any hospital? Can you imagine that? I can. So what happened? corporation controlled Republican legislators happened and the ensuing fight gutted the law and made it the atrocious piece of legislation that it is today.

        • Simone February 4, 2015 at 4:58 pm

          Dear editors will you please amend my HTML code to say here in the post above so the whole reply isn’t a hyprlink? Thanks.

  • David February 4, 2015 at 10:43 am

    It’s just unbelievable that the self proclaimed dictator Obama, is trying to force on the people hundreds of billions of dollars in an incomprehensive taxes to support an invasion. An illegal alien invasion which I believe and a large proportion of Americans judge is well underestimated at 11 million? We cannot allow this; under no circumstances should illegal aliens be allowed to be rewarded with a cornucopia of citizenship rights, along with a small gold mine of food stamps, vouchers for housing, Obamacare, Education child tax credits with even fraudulent reimbursements. Being given a Social Security number, a permit to work is a final straw after unknown numbers have stolen Social Security cards and other ID.

    This passionate nation can no longer AFFORD to be a financial benefactor to anybody who breaks the law. Yet now Obama and his elected officers have violated the law, relating to restrictions of how many immigrants are processed to LEGALLY enter America. In addition to this he has secretly permitted 35,000 criminal aliens being released into the mainstream populace of our country, after being locked away. A large number have been re-arrested for a list of felonies. There is no excuse for this type of lawlessness mounted. It seems that Obama administration will go any length, to favor foreigners over our own veterans, families, street children, the homeless, the disabled, and the mentally ill. Not forgetting the millions of American men and women who cannot find a job, whether temporary/part time or long term employment. This present government is inept to the extreme, but neither can be truly trusted. Both parties connive to default on their oath of allegiance, other than a very few honest Conservatives-not GOP entrenched established wealthy elites.

    When you thought the lawlessness of President Barack Obama and his henchmen had reached its limit in his unconstitutional executive amnesty orders and memos another even more astonishing example of illegal behavior regarding immigration has been revealed.

    U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, issued a statement regarding new data, unearthed in a Freedom of Information Act request, which revealed the operation of a shadow immigration system, that since 2009 has issued 5.5 million foreign worker permits above the yearly flow of 1 million green cards and 700,000 guest workers, a massive surplus beyond existing legal numerical limitations.

    This drastic expansion of foreign workers, which includes many illegal workers, undermines jobs and incomes for all residents, including recent immigrants.

    In his statement Senator Sessions said:

    “This Freedom of Information Act request has unearthed the operation of a shadow immigration system previously unknown to the American public. A full investigation is warranted. In addition to the widespread non-enforcement of existing immigration law—such as the public charge rule—we know now the Administration has been issuing millions of additional work permits beyond what Congress has authorized. Since 2009, the Administration has issued 5.5 million new work permits in excess of the regular immigration flow. This massive increase in the labor supply has occurred simultaneously with a steep drop in family incomes and a sharp rise in the number of Americans pushed out of the workforce. All jobs gains since the recession have gone to foreign workers, while the slack labor market has depressed median family incomes almost $5,000 in that time.

    During his statement Senator Sessions said:

    This exposé comes as Congress prepares to vote tomorrow on whether to begin debate on the House-passed bill to stop the President’s unlawful issuance of another 5 million work permits to illegal immigrants. The House bill on the floor fully funds every lawful activity of DHS; what it does not fund is outlaw behavior. Any Senator who votes to block debate is voting to deny their constituents the protections of their own laws. Blocking debate on this bill is to block your own constituents’ voice in the affairs of their government. Congress passed limitations on immigration and rules for residing in the United States, in order to protect the economic interests of all U.S. workers—both immigrant and native-born. Month after month, the Administration has systemically dismantled U.S. immigration laws without evoking a word of protest from members of the President’s party. The coming days will test whether congressional Democrats can claim to represent American workers, or whether they will complete their transformation into the party of open borders.”

    Naturally, we expect Senator Sessions and other principled conservatives in Congress to conduct hearings on the information revealed by our friends at the Center for Immigration Studies, but are hearings, oversight and an attempt at defunding these unauthorized programs the end of congressional power to rein-in a lawless President?

    No, there is another alternative, and it is called impeachment.

    There is now a vast body of unlawful conduct and malfeasance documented concerning Barack Obama’s faithless execution of the office of President, and the conduct of this “shadow immigration system” is one more egregious act to add to the bill of particulars against Obama.

    Impeaching Obama would be a very unpleasant choice, and there is clearly no appetite for it in today’s Capitol Hill GOP. But we are with Andy McCarthy and the millions of grassroots constitutional conservatives who believe living with what Obama is otherwise going to do over the next two years (on top of what he has already done) will be a more unpleasant choice. If the choices are impeach Obama or live with his lawlessness we say that’s no choice at all — it is an imperative that Congress begins impeachment proceedings immediately.

    There is a gathering momentum to Impeach Obama amongst the American public and many Politicians, but the latter is held back by their bumbling leaders as Harry Reid and John Boehner. Nor can you think you can sit back patiently and do—nothing? YOU—and only you as voters have the omnipotent power to stop this amnesty? Your taxes will spiral as the lies preceding the implementation of Obamacare that was foreseen by the Tea Party. We urge you to call your Representative and Senators (the Capitol Switchboard is 1-866-220-0044) and ask them to keep up the pressure on their state and federal lawmakers. CALL YOUR MEMBER. This type of lawlessness by a sitting president is unequal in our history.

    He has stepped out of line and those Democrats, who are partners in crime, will also be held accountable. Even now the bulk of the American people are very suspicious, whether there is a hidden pact arranged between Obama and Boehner? That we are being tricked into thinking that top lawmakers of both parties are seriously protecting the American people from more floods of cheap labor, or for the Democratic alternative–more voters, not restrained by the perjury law if illegally voting. Every time an illegal alien slips past our unsecured border, we, the taxpayer must support them. Learn more at NumbersUSA or Alipac on this venomous subject if neither party will hermetically seal the border without any gaps?

    • wilbur February 4, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Now THAT is an EPIC rant!!!!

    • Cuberantcamper March 31, 2015 at 12:12 am

      It is too bad this rant could not include more actual facts. It is just more right wing marginalizing Obama with unsupported allegations.

  • anybody home February 4, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    “self-proclaimed dictator” ??? Could you give us a reference or citation for that one…? When did this proclamation occur and where and to whom? Or maybe you don’t understand the “self-proclaimed” concept…?

    • Brian February 4, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Agreed. Though actions do speak louder than words, and many of his actions and words are those of a dictator (the same could be said of Bush as well, though to a far lesser degree). The Wikipedia page for “self-proclaimed” was right on, though, it said “See also: pretender”. Nailed that one on the head for king obama…

      • anybody home February 4, 2015 at 3:29 pm

        Uhm, I think you’re missing the point. Yes, it does mean pretender, but only if the person himself says, “I’m the king.” I’m asking if anyone has ever heard Obama say this or have any evidence that he’s said it. If you are saying he’s king because you don’t like his behavior, then it’s not self-proclaimed.

        • Brian February 4, 2015 at 4:19 pm

          The point is he thinks he’s the king (as do many of his subjects). Every third word he uses is “I”. He’s the narcissist-in-chief. Does he have to use the exact phrase “I’m the king” for you to see that? He ~pretends~ to be president, even though he hates it and thinks it’s beneath him. I say ~pretends~ because he’s just a figure-head, nothing more than a sock-puppet for the radical left to keep us entertained while they push through their agenda and install their operatives everywhere (and they’re doing much more damage than the king is). There’s nothing presidential about him.

          • anybody home February 4, 2015 at 8:45 pm

            Yes, actually he does. The rest is just your opinion. I don’t know where you’re getting your info.

            “He ~pretends~ to be president, even though he hates it and thinks it’s beneath him.”

            I’m sorry,but you’re going to have to show me the evidence for this statement. If you can, and you do, we can continue the conversation.

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