Republicans Were Fine With Bush Acting On Immigration Reform Without Congress

“With his immigration bill dead, the administration rolled out a proposed rule to address some of the major issues in the failed legislation,” the Associated Press writes, before outlining some of the changes the president will enact without the consent of Congress.

But the article isn’t about President Barack Obama’s impending executive action to “expand temporary protections for millions of undocumented immigrants.” It’s from 2007 and it details President George W. Bush’s push to enact changes to immigration law after his own immigration reform bill failed in the Senate.

The rules required employers to dismiss workers whose Social Security numbers don’t match those in federal databases, tightened border security, and streamlined guest-worker programs and urging employers to fire undocumented workers.

In defending his actions, Bush sounded a lot like Obama does today.

“Although the Congress has not addressed our broken immigration system by passing comprehensive reform legislation, my administration will continue to take every possible step to build upon the progress already made,” Bush said.


White House Press Secretary Dana Perino explained that the administration had initially held off on the changes to allow Congress breathing room to deal with the immigration problem comprehensively, adding, “We’re going as far as we possibly can without Congress acting.”

Obama finds himself in a similar position six years later, pursuing unilateral changes after the House failed to vote on an immigration reform bill the Senate passed. The president is expected to announce his immigration executive action on Thursday. And while Republican lawmakers remained mostly silent about Bush’s unilateral reforms — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) observed that “these reforms could have been implemented a long time ago” — they have promised retaliatory action against Obama.

Back in 2007, however, Bush officials appeared to agree with their successors. ‘’We had hoped that immigration reform on a comprehensive basis would give us a much wider set of tools,’’ said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in August of 2007. “But until the laws change, we are enforcing the laws as they are to the utmost of our ability using every tool that we have in the tool box. And we’re going to sharpen some of those tools.’’