TN Congressional Members Sound Off on Obama’s Immigration Executive Order

Statement from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; November 20, 2014:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on President Obama’s unilateral decision to grant executive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants:

“Our Founders did not want a king and the American people don’t want a president who acts like one. Our immigration system is broken and our border is a mess. The president should be working with Congress to secure the border and create a system of legal immigration – not disregarding the rule of law and the will of the American people.”

The president’s decision contradicts what he, on multiple occasions over several years, characterized as both constitutional and legal restrictions on what the U.S. president in our system of government can accomplish on immigration through executive order:

  • On Sept. 28, 2011, he said: “I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce …. We live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it.” (Emphasis added.)
  • On June 25, 2011, he said: “Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. And believe me, right now dealing with Congress – believe me – believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how – that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.” (Emphasis added.)
  • On March 28, 2011, he said: “ … for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.” (Emphasis added.)

Statement from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; November 20, 2014:

“This decision makes it clear that the president doesn’t have the ability and willingness to lead by rolling up his sleeves and doing the hard work to reach a consensus that is in the best interest of our country.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s decision to take executive action on immigration:

“The president is not acting in strength, he is acting in weakness,” said Corker. “This decision makes it clear that the president doesn’t have the ability and willingness to lead by rolling up his sleeves and doing the hard work to reach a consensus that is in the best interest of our country.”

Corker continued, “The president is blatantly ignoring the rule of law and Congress’ constitutional role, and I could not be more disappointed. Congress has to respond, but the response should be prudent and we should not lose sight of the fact that our job over the next two years is to enact policies that will make our nation stronger.”

In previous statements, President Obama acknowledged that he doesn’t have the authority to take such unilateral action without Congress. Speaking about the need to fix our nation’s broken immigration system in a 2011 commencement address at Miami Dade College, President Obama said, “I know some here wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how democracy works… Changing our laws means doing the hard work of changing minds and changing votes, one by one.”

Senator Corker co-authored the Hoeven-Corker border security amendment, which is the toughest border security measure to ever pass the Senate. The amendment was approved overwhelmingly by the Senate in a 69-29 vote and led to the final passage of the Senate immigration reform bill.

Statement from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. 01; November 20, 2014:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tonight, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) released the following statement after President Obama’s announcement he would take executive action on immigration reform:

“The president’s unilateral action on immigration reform is outrageous. In October, the President rightly noted that he wasn’t on the ballot, but his policies were, and the American people sent a clear message on November 4th they wanted a different direction. Tonight’s action makes clear that the president has no interest in working with Republicans in Congress to find common ground on any substantive issue, and instead intends to go it alone.

“The president himself has made the case throughout his presidency that he doesn’t have this authority. As Speaker Boehner noted, President Obama has said 22 times that he couldn’t legally do exactly what he’s announced he will do tonight. In February of 2013, when discussing this exact executive action, the president stated, ‘The problem is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States.’

“The administration points to President Reagan’s executive action in the 80’s as setting precedent for this kind of executive action, but the difference was that in 1986 Congress explicitly authorized immigration reform first. Furthermore, the fact we have more than 11 million illegal immigrants in this country today – less than 30 years later – proves what we did in the 80’s didn’t work. A Band-Aid didn’t work then, so we shouldn’t expect it to work now.

“President Obama has clearly prioritized his political legacy over the will of the American people and effective governing. As I’ve said before, we can—and should—take steps to reform the immigration process, starting with fully securing the border. But the president’s attempt to rewrite immigration law from the Oval Office is the wrong solution, not to mention a smack in the face to every naturalized citizen that earned their legal right to live in this country.”

Statement from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn. 02; November 21, 2014:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement Thursday in response to President Obama’s pending immigration announcement:

There is a right way to do things, and there is a wrong way to do things. This is the wrong way.

President Obama has said on several occasions in the past that executive orders are the wrong way to fix immigration and that he isn’t a king, but now this is exactly what he is trying to do.

With unemployment and underemployment rates still high and so many millions of people who have given up looking for work, it is not a good move to bring in millions more people from other countries.

Rest assured, there will be a strong and coordinated response from the Congress to stop this unconstitutional overreach of power.

Statement from U.S. Rep. Scott Desjarlais, R-Tenn. 04; November 20, 2014: 

Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (TN-04) released the following statement in response to President Obama’s announcement on immigration:

“President Obama’s decision to act unilaterally on immigration shows a blatant disregard for the constitutional checks and balances upon which our government was founded and sets a troubling precedent for the use of executive power. Congress has the sole authority to create and amend laws, with the president’s duty being to faithfully execute those laws. Although he might wish otherwise, the Constitution does not give President Obama the authority to circumvent Congress simply because existing immigration laws conflict with his particular ideology. My colleagues and I will be reviewing all available options afforded to Congress to prevent this usurpation of power and preserve our rule of law.”

Statement from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 05; November 21, 2014: 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) and Congressman Diane Black (TN-06) introduced the Separation of Powers Act.  This legislation would prohibit the use of funds for granting deferred action or other immigration relief to aliens not lawfully present in the United States. The bill text is attached.

“Time and again this lawless administration has defied Congress in order to unilaterally implement its own agenda,” said Rep. Poe. “The President’s latest edict announcing that he will disregard immigration law, rewrite the rules and grant amnesty and work permits to millions of foreign nationals is just the latest illegal act. These actions are motivated by politics, not people. This legislation will allow Congress to exercise its ‘check’ on an out-of-control White House that treats the Constitution as a mere suggestion, not the law of the land.”

“President Obama will regret this decision,” said Congressman Black. “The American public has loudly voiced their objections to the President circumventing Congress like this, and now President Obama has ignored the will of the people and set a terrible precedent for future Administrations. In doing so he has also reversed his own previous position on the limits of his power, further degrading his credibility and disgracing his Administration. My colleagues and I will explore our options to stop this overreach and restore the proper Constitutional balance to our government – this legislation is an important start.”

The Separation of Powers Act:

  • Prohibits any funds from being appropriated or otherwise made available to grant parole or deferred action to any alien other than for reasons permitted under current law; and
  • Prohibits any funds from being appropriated or otherwise made available to provide work permits or green cards to aliens who are currently unlawfully in the U.S.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; November 20, 2014:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s planned executive action that would provide amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants who have entered America with complete disregard for our nation’s laws.

“After months of crafting comprehensive immigration reform behind closed doors and delaying it to shield Democrats up for re-election, the self-proclaimed most transparent Administration in history is finally announcing the scope of its lawless amnesty. The President’s decision to nullify the immigration laws of this country through executive action will hurt our economy, lead to more unemployed American citizens, and make us less secure. It signals that America is an ‘open borders’ society with no rules governing entrance except those announced through Royal decree.

“This is the culmination of President Obama’s executive amnesty, which began in June 2012 with the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA). DACA has provided deportation deferrals and work permits to illegal aliens, which has served as a magnet to encourage more non-citizens to cross our Southern border. The President’s decision to expand amnesty for over five million unlawful entrants is a gross abuse of power.

“President Obama’s relentless assault on the Constitution will be his legacy. His actions have established a new precedent for Executive behavior that will have repercussions for years to come. Soon we will no longer need the legislators or the courts. King Obama will make the law, interpret the law, and if he so chooses, enforce the law. His ‘ends justify the means’ approach is exactly the type of Executive mentality our system of government was designed to discourage.

“Republicans will fight the President’s amnesty. America is a nation of laws and lawlessness will not stand.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn. 08; November 21, 2014:

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN) today made the following statement regarding President Obama’s plan to take unilateral executive action to lawlessly grant amnesty to approximately five million illegal immigrants who have entered the country illegally.

“The American people spoke loud and clear on Election Day that they want solutions to America’s immigration crisis, not amnesty. It is unconstitutional and downright arrogant for our President to pursue this disastrous policy through executive action, rather than through the Constitutional process of working with Congress.”

“Just last year, President Obama said he could not issue an executive amnesty because ‘I’m the President of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.’ The President has certainly changed his tune since then, as his decision to take unilateral executive action will lawlessly grant amnesty to roughly five million immigrants who have entered the country illegally.”

“Today, the President is conscientiously choosing individuals who have come to this country illegally over American workers. We have 92 million Americans who are currently unemployed. The President’s plan will give work permits, photo IDs, and Social Security numbers to millions of illegal immigrants – taking jobs directly away from Americans looking for work.”

“We have a legal system for folks to come to this country – we should not reward those have broken the law and place them above folks who are coming here legally. Obama’s plan will only serve to encourage more immigrants to come here illegally, undercutting the immigrants who do follow the law.”

“The President should stop talking about amnesty, enforce the current laws and secure the border. After all, Americans want a secured border not executive overreach.”

On November 13, Congressman Fincher sent a letter to Reps. Harold Rogers and Nita Lowey, Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee. The letter encouraged them to draft appropriations legislation before the current continuing resolution expires on December 12, 2014 that would include language to prohibit funding for the President’s then reported intentions to create work permits and green cards for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; November 20, 2014:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) released the following statement after President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions to alleviate several dysfunctional aspects of the United States’ immigration system:

“As the leader of the least productive Congress in recent history, Speaker Boehner has obstructed, deflected responsibility, and outright refused to allow the House of Representatives to vote on the bipartisan comprehensive immigration and border security bill that passed the Senate a year-and-a-half ago. As one of the bill’s 200 cosponsors, I have repeatedly called upon the Speaker to give the bill a fair hearing to no avail.”

“Our nation’s immigration system remains broken as a result of the Speaker’s politically-motivated delays. Immigration is one of America’s most pressing challenges. We can’t afford to wait any longer to fix it. In light of the Majority leadership’s abdication of its duty, I fully support the President’s commonsense, legally-sound move that follows well-established precedents to address our nation’s immigration problems as best he can. I once again urge Speaker Boehner to let Congress work its will, allow for a vote which would surely pass with wide bipartisan support, and finally fix our broken immigration system.”