Recent hearings in the House of Representatives are showing us that the focus is not on solving the issues to pass immigration reform but focused on past problems that have been debated about before. In one House hearing before the Homeland Security committee, Secretary Jeh Johnson laid out his vision for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Among the questions the Secretary took from committee members were inquiries about deportation priorities and immigrants who overstay their visas. At the same time, the House Judiciary committee held a hearing about the president’s constitutional duties and the use of executive power in his administration. The real question is why are our House members focused on enforcing current immigration policies when the dialogue should be on immigration reform?
It is clear that many Representatives are concerned about border security more than anything. In fact, at the House hearing with Sec. Johnson, he fielded questions about whether the administration was deporting immigrants who fit the department’s stated priorities, including putting resources toward finding immigrants who overstay their visas. “If in the category of visa overstays there are those people [who are national security threats], then we need to go after those people,” Johnson said. Some House members claimed the administration wasn’t deporting enough immigrants, while Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) expressed concern that too many immigrants are being removed because of minor driving offenses and not violent crimes. These comments show how the focus is still on the current policies being implemented and less on how the changes to our policies will affect these concerns.
With the debate over the President’s constitutional authority to unilaterally implement immigration policy going on, House members assert that his broad authority is still limited. Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) asserted that while the president has prosecutorial discretion, “he does not have the authority to exempt a specified class of up to 1.76 million individuals.” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) explained that DACA is decided on a case-by-case basis as every individual application is examined before DACA is granted.
Despite growing demand from hundreds of business, faith, local government individuals and advocates across the nation, both of the hearings spent by House members were questioning the implementation of bad immigration law, rather than questioning how a solution could be found. It is important that House members work towards fixing them and holding votes on the immigration bills currently sitting in the House. These hearings reflect either a congress that does not realize they have the authority to change these laws or one that is purposefully trying to avoid doing so. Towards the end of the House Judiciary hearing, Gutierrez summed up the day’s events this way: “What we have here is another do-nothing Congress and we want a do-nothing President to go along with the do-nothing Congress.” Let’s hope as it gets closer to the midterm elections House members will start listening to their constituents and do something about immigration reform like they already promised.