(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) thanked President Obama for circumventing the Legislative branch when it comes to immigration law.
Title 8 Section 1325 of the U.S. Code makes it a federal crime to be in the United States illegally. Nevertheless, the Obama administration in August directed federal immigration officials to use "prosecutorial discretion" in deciding which illegal aliens to detain and deport.
“We had a president of the United States that recently was speaking at National Council of La Raza who said during his speech, ‘There are those who simply wish me to bypass Congress when it comes to immigration,’ and many in the audience clapped, saying, ‘Yup, bypass Congress…’” Gutierrez told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) conference on Monday.
“He (Obama) said, ‘But I can’t bypass Congress,’ and people in the audience said, ‘Yes you can,’ and you want to know something? They were right -- he could and he did, and I want to thank the President of the United States, and I want to thank all of those that work at the White House for issuing new guidance when it comes to deportations,” Gutierrez added.
(Obama in July told the National Council of La Raza that although the idea of bypassing Congress and changing U.S. immigration laws on his own was “very tempting,” his hands were tied because “that is not how our system works.”)
Gutierrez, who has criticized Obama for not taking up immigration reform, said a million people have been deported from the United States during the last 30 months. But under the new policy, those who came to the U.S. as children will not be deported.
“It means that one million young immigrants to this country get to live and survive for another day, and that’s a victory -- that they’re not being deported and as a matter of fact that there are cancellations of deportations.”
The DREAM Act, which would have granted young people a pathway to legalization if they went to college or served in the U.S. military, was rejected by Congress in December 2010, but administration's new "discretion" policy will now allow them to stay in the U.S., Gutierrez said.
In June, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, a component of the Homeland Security Department, issued a memo outlining the new immigration policy.
Unless the illegal alien poses national security concerns, has a serious criminal history, poses a threat to public safety, is a human rights violator or is involved in “significant” immigration fraud, he or she will probably will not be deported.
The memo also directs ICE agents to take into consideration how long an individual has been in the U.S., whether that person has a spouse or children who are U.S. citizens, and whether that person has a serious criminal record. Crimes victims, witnesses to crimes, or people who are charged with minor traffic violations also would avoid deportation under the ICE guidance.
According to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, the new discretion policy will result in a case-by-case review of an estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants facing deportation in federal immigration courts.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced the HALT Act in June. The bill is intended to prevent the Obama administration from granting de facto amnesty under the guise of prosecutorial discretion.