Two Republicans have left a bipartisan House working group that was set to draft immigration reform because they fear that President Obama may undermine immigration law, according to a statement released by the pair on Friday. Their departure creates uncertainty for the passage of a bipartisan immigration bill in the House.
Reps. John Carter (R-TX) and Sam Johnson (R-TX) attributed their decision to leave the so-called “Gang of Seven” to the Obama administration’s “practice of hand-picking what parts of laws they wish to enforce, “citing the implementation of health care reform and environmental regulations provisions. They said:
We want to be clear. The problem is politics. Instead of doing what’s right for America, President Obama time and again has unilaterally disregarded the U.S. Constitution, the letter of the law and bypassed the Congress – the body most representative of the people – in order to advance his political agenda[...]
[...] If past actions are the best indicators of future behavior; we know that any measure depending on the president’s enforcement will not be faithfully executed. It would be gravely irresponsible to further empower this administration by granting them additional authority or discretion with a new immigration system. The bottom line is – the American people do not trust the President to enforce laws, and we don’t either[...]
[...]We will continue to support efforts from our Republican colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. That means immigration reform that starts with a genuinely secure border, full implementation of E-verify, effective enforcement of current and future laws, and a commitment that any proposal contributes to a healthy economy.
In an interview on Tuesday, Obama pledged to act on Congress’ guidance and refused to stop the deportation of some undocumented parents by an executive order. “I do get a little worried that advocates of immigration reform start losing heart and immediately thinking somehow there’s an out here, if Congress doesn’t act, we’ll just have the President sign something and that will take care of it, we won’t have to worry about it,” Obama explained. “What I’m saying is that there’s a path to get this done and that’s through Congress.”
Johnson and Carter have long been supporters of a pathway to citizenship. Their departure leaves only one Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) in the House immigration group, which began with four members from each party.
“It is unfortunate Carter and Johnson tried to justify their departure from the ‘Gang of Seven’ by launching a Tea Party broadside against the President,” said Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. “The focus of their anger should be on their own leaders, who have refused to provide them the support needed to move a bill out of the backroom and on to the House Floor…Speaker Boehner and his leadership team…have the time on the calendar, the necessary votes in the House, and the broad support of the American public.”
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) dropped out of the group in June, citing issues with the fallout of a Republican-led healthcare provision that would mandate undocumented immigrants to fully pay for their own medical expenses.
On Thursday, however, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) indicated that members were still working “behind the scenes” towards finding an immigration reform resolution. The Virginia Republican has endorsed granting citizenship to undocumented youths who were brought to the country by their parents, but has ruled out supporting a comprehensive measure and is instead focusing on smaller, piecemeal reforms.