TIME Immigration

Obama’s Actions Won’t Increase Illegal Immigration, Expert Says

Barack Obama Immigration
President Barack Obama signs two presidential memoranda associated with his actions on immigration in his office, on Air Force One as he arrives at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nov. 21, 2014. Carolyn Kaster—AP

House Speaker John Boehner is arguing that President Obama’s moves to defer deportations for up to five million undocumented immigrants will make illegal immigration worse, citing President Obama’s own past words to make the argument.

But a top immigration expert disagreed, arguing that the causes of illegal immigration are more complex.

Obama announced Thursday that he would allow millions of undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident children who have been living in the country for at least five years to avoid deportation for three years if they pay back taxes and pass a criminal background check.

Boehner said that will only encourage more people to try to cross the border. His office pointed to a 2010 Obama statement in which the President said that providing undocumented workers legal status “could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration.”

“The action by the President yesterday will only encourage more people to come here illegally and put their lives at risk,” said Boehner. “We saw the humanitarian crisis on our border last summer—how horrific it was. Well next summer, it could be worse.”

Boehner was referring to a surge in unaccompanied minors from October 2013 through September, when over 68,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the southwest border, a 77% increase over the previous year. (The number of children coming over has sharply declined in the past few months.)

But Doris Meissner, the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s immigration policy work, said that Boehner’s criticism was off. Here’s what she told TIME:

It goes to the more general idea of whether a legal status program functions as a magnet to future illegal immigration and that’s always something that’s been out there and has been a concern, but the reality today is that we have invested so much in southwest border enforcement…and the President has underscored that again that he is going to allocate even more additional resources to border enforcement. The evidence that we have is that our illegal immigration across the southwest border is at it’s lowest level since the early 1970s when the current wave of illegal immigration largely from Mexico began, we have net minus immigration from Mexico.

The child migrant spurt that happened over the last year was much more a function of conditions in those three countries—Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—and notion of ‘permisos’ in the United States. But that’s now really receded dramatically. So if you take the spurt of Central American crossings out of the numbers for last year, you find the lowest levels of illegal immigration apprehensions across the southwest border in decades. Now that’s not to say that you can discount Central American migration but…it’s a function of different circumstances then the illegal immigration that has led to what the President is saying now.

This action that he has taken now is retrospective. You have to have been in the country for five years to qualify for it. It’s for people as of the date of announcement; there’s no eligibility for people that might be coming forward in the future. I do think that the underpinnings today are quite different and it’s pretty hard to make the case that this particular action would spur a future migration.

TIME Congress

House Sues Obama Over Health Care Law

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama announces executive actions on immigration during a nationally televised address from the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20, 2014 Jim Bourg—AP

"The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution"

House Republicans sued the Obama Administration on Friday over how it has implemented the health care reform law, taking legal action after threatening to do so for months.

The House sued the cabinet secretaries for the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Treasury, and filed the case in the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C., House Speaker John Boehner’s office said. At issue are administrative tweaks the Administration has made during the course of implementing the law.

“Time after time, the President has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and re-write federal law on his own without a vote of Congress,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well. The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action.”

The lawsuit went unfiled for months after House Republicans first floated it. Legal experts have been skeptical of its chances of success.

Boehner said in July that the House would sue President Barack Obama for twice delaying the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that businesses with more than 50 full-time employes provide insurance or pay a fee—a provision Republicans oppose anyway. The suit also alleges that the law does not allow the executive branch to transfer funds to insurance companies to reduce out-of-pocket payments for low-income enrollees, as Congress has not appropriated the money for that purpose. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that those cost-sharing subsidies for low-income Americas—those at two-and-a-half times the poverty level, or $11,670 to $29,175 a year for an individual—will cost $175 billion over the next ten years.

Republicans had trouble finding a lawyer to pursue the case, but Boehner found his man this week in George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley, who had testified in favor of such a lawsuit this summer. House Republican aides have suggested the lawsuit could be expanded to include the Obama’s executive actions taken this week to grant temporary legal status to millions of immigrants in the country illegally, but Turley has said in the past that expanding the lawsuit would weaken it.

House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi ridiculed the lawsuit as a political stunt.

“After scouring Washington for months, Republicans have finally found a TV lawyer to file their meritless lawsuit,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement Friday. “While the American people want Congress to get serious about creating good-paying jobs and strengthening the middle class, House Republicans are paying $500-an-hour in taxpayer money to sue the President of the United States. The fact is, this lawsuit is a bald-faced attempt to achieve what Republicans have been unable to achieve through the political process.”

TIME Immigration

Boehner: Immigration Action Damages The Presidency

Speaker promised the House will respond

House Speaker John Boehner said President Barack Obama is “damaging the presidency itself” by unilaterally providing temporary legal status and work permits to millions of immigrants who are living in the country illegally.

“With this action he has refused to listen to the American people,” said Boehner in a press conference Friday. “The President has taken actions that he himself has said are those of a king or an emperor, not an American president.”

Boehner did not lay out a specific response to counter the President’s executive action, the largest American immigration move in decades, but promised that “the House will in fact act.”

Republicans are considering everything from using the power of the purse to a lawsuit in response. The latter move may prove unsuccessful, as some of the most high-profile American legal scholars, including Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, have said that the action was within the President’s lawful authority.

TIME Immigration

House Republicans Argue Over Immigration Response

Sara Ramirez, of Gaithersberg, Md. rallies for comprehensive immigration reform outside the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 7, 2014.
Sara Ramirez, of Gaithersburg, Md., rallies for comprehensive immigration reform outside the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 7, 2014 Jacquelyn Martin—AP

Conservatives want a spending fight that appropriators say wouldn't work

Even before President Obama officially announces a major executive action shielding millions of undocumented workers from deportation, Republicans in the House are clashing over how to stop it.

On one side: Conservatives who want to revoke funding for the government programs that will carry out Obama’s unilateral actions. On the other side, appropriators argue that won’t work because of how the programs are funded.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers is pushing for a package of spending bills that would fund the government through September and take a defund effort off the table. His staff noted that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which will likely be in charge of administering Obama’s changes, gets its money through fees and wouldn’t be affected by a spending fight — or even a shutdown.

“Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify’ program,” says Rogers spokeswoman Jennifer Hing. “Therefore, the Appropriations process cannot be used to ‘de-fund’ the agency. The agency has the ability to continue to collect and use fees to continue current operations, and to expand operations as under a new executive order, without needing legislative approval by the Appropriations Committee or the Congress, even under a continuing resolution or a government shutdown.”

But conservatives weren’t buying that argument.

“We could scoop all of their fees if we chose to do that,” says Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). “We could shut them down if we chose to do that. So I don’t think it’s hard at all. I think people are looking for an argument when they find out this doesn’t work they’ll create another one.”

“Just write it into the bill,” he adds. “’No fees shall be used…’”

“We have not had the discussion in conference but at the end of the day it’s our responsibility to approve any spending out of the Treasury—the Constitution is very clear on that,” argued Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp. “I’m not going to give up that authority just because the president wants to take it.”

Conservative Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and even appropriators say that Congress could change how the Citizenship and Immigration Services uses its fees with new authorization. But appropriators argue that Obama would veto the bill, the government would shut down, and the program would continue to operate with its fees.

“There are authorization lines in every bill, especially these big ones,” counters Sessions. “We’ve done it time and time again. It’s a narrow, discrete fix.”

“This is a matter of constitutional importance,” he adds. “This is a presidential overreach.”

Senior Republicans are wary of statements from its most extreme flanks, like outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann’s comments to the Washington Post that Obama’s measure would incur a “social cost” to taxpayers, with “millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language.”

“That’s the trouble with having some of these new young punks around here,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the Washington Post. “They ought to listen to us old geezers.”

TIME Immigration

Republicans Brace for an Immigration Fight With Obama

John Boehner Obama Immigration
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds a news conference with the newly-elected members of the House GOP leadership at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Nov. 13, 2014. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Mocks "Emperor Obama" on immigration

After President Barack Obama announces executive actions expected to shield five million undocumented immigrants from deportation Thursday, Republicans will scream that he doesn’t have the authority to do so and use Obama’s own words to make their case. Indeed, they already have.

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue—and many others,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement Wednesday, referring to when Obama said last year that he has “obligations” to enforce current immigration laws as he is “not the emperor of the United States.”

But besides press releases and floor speeches, what can Republicans do? So far, Republican lawmakers have indicated they could move to defund certain programs and sue the President, a move many immigration legal experts say would likely fail in court. It appears neither option is very good.

“It’s hard to defund inaction,” Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Stivers said of Obama’s expected move to temporarily defer deportations. “So we’re struggling to figure out what our real options are.”

Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, has tried to rally conservatives to pass a package that would fund the government through next September and then—after the President’s executive actions are better understood—pass another bill that would rescind funding for programs designed to carry out the order. Congress has a Dec. 11 deadline to avert a government shutdown, something Republican leaders want to avoid after last year’s politically damaging shutdown.

“I want the new Congress to be able to start anew, fresh, to be able to set agenda,” said Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, an immigration reform supporter who approves of the year-long measure. “What is not an acceptable, what is not a path forward what is not a solution is to shut down the government.”

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a Boehner ally, said that while such a so-called “omnibus” government funding measure isn’t dead, the President is “certainly doing his best to kill it.”

“He would rather have an end-of-the-year fight than an an end-of-the-year deal and that’s a sad portent of what the next two years might be like,” Cole added. “I hope it’s not.”

Some conservatives have advocated for a short-term alternative that would push the spending battle into early next year when Republicans control both chambers of Congress. AlabamaRepublican Sen. Jeff Sessions, the incoming Budget Committee chairman, has pushed that strategy along with other conservatives and outside groups.

Roy Beck, president of the immigration-reduction group Numbers USA, told TIME that “any vote” to fund the Department of Homeland Security for “more than two or three months would be a vote in favor of the Obama amnesty.” Dan Holler, a spokesman for the conservative group Heritage Action, said in a statement Wednesday that Rogers’ plan doesn’t provide enough leverage for Republicans, as the President wouldn’t sign a rescinded bill to help Republicans defund his executive action.

Some Republicans and conservative commentators, like Erick Erickson of the website RedState, have noted that there was little longterm political cost to last year’s government shutdown. Republican poll numbers initially cratered, but the botched rollout of the health care reform law quickly shifted attention and Republicans recaptured the Senate this month for the first time since 2006.

“Turns out the public was a lot smarter than a lot in the political class and media class gave them credit for,” the Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert told Bloomberg on Tuesday. “They were able to discern that it was an honorable fight over many of the things that were rolling out in the new health care law.”

“It would be the President who would shut down the government if we passed legislation that fully funds the government with the exception of his illegal conduct,” Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks said.

Besides possibly attempting to defund targeted agencies, Republicans may also sue the President over the executive actions. But a taxpayer-funded lawsuit could lose steam as it the cost rises and weeks go by—witness the dormancy of a House-pushed lawsuit over Obama’s administrative tweaks to the health law.

“There’s obviously legal challenges we can bring, but those take time and our base gets really frustrated because they think, ‘well all you can do is sue the guy,’” Stivers said. “Which may be true—we don’t yet, we’re really working hard to try and find options.”

TIME Congress

Senate Blocks Keystone Legislation

Landrieu Handed Loss by Fellow Democrats

Senate Democrats blocked a bill to authorize the 1,179-mile TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday evening, delaying a confrontation between the White House and Republicans over the project and potentially damaging Democratic Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s hopes for re-election in a tight runoff vote next month.

All 45 Republican Senators and 14 Democrats voted for the bill, falling one short of the 60 votes needed to override a Democratic filibuster of the measure.

The vote capped a day of political stunts and speeches on the floor of the Senate. Hours earlier, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer, stood in front of a huge poster marked “Misery Follows Tar Sands” and another with people wearing protective face masks. “It’s called Keystone XL,” Boxer said, “Not extra large, but extra lethal… Why do we want to bring barrels of filthy, dangerous, dirty pollution into America?”

On the other side of the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner said in a press conference Tuesday morning that vetoing a bill for the popular pipeline would be the “equivalent of calling the American people ‘stupid.’”

Landrieu worked hard to find the 15 Democrats needed for passage, garnering support from Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Delaware Sen. Tom Carper. “We’ve been at this for six years,” said Carper who believes the pipeline has “impeded” efforts to pass clean energy bills. “We need to vote on it and move on.”

Even some environmentalists agree with Carper’s assessment that the Keystone push has taken the spotlight from other issues. Michael Shellenberger, the President of the progressive Breakthrough Institute, says that the Keystone debate is symbolic of a broader problem for the environmental movement in which partisans with narrow interests fail to support potentially bipartisan energy plans with coal alternatives like nuclear and natural gas. “I think the greatest irony of it—and that no one really talks about—is that right in the middle of the thing we’re having a huge fracking boom,” he says.

“[Environmentalists] hitched their carts to the Democrats and it doesn’t really give any incentive to Republicans to care or do much of anything on the environment,” adds Shellenberger. “This is the most politically weakened environmental movement there’s probably ever been since the movement was created in 1970.”

As for Landrieu, her chances to defeat Rep. Bill Cassidy in their Dec. 6 runoff–never very good–just got smaller. Even the publicity she got pushing the bill won’t do her much good, according to Louisiana political experts. “I don’t think the pipeline bill push will do much to change the dynamics of this election,” Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette said before the vote. “It is probably too little too late.”

After the bill’s defeat was announced on the floor, a singing man dressed in Native American garb and a handful of student protesters were escorted from the viewing section of the Senate chamber and handcuffed.

TIME Congress

Louisiana Senator One Vote Short on Keystone Pipeline Bill

Landrieu Hunts for Filibuster-Proof Majority

Ten days ago, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said that a vote to authorize the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline would be a “slam dunk.” As of Monday morning, a day before an expected high-profile Senate vote, the ball appears to be hovering above the rim.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, the party’s Whip, said Sunday that the pipeline’s proponents have nabbed 59 votes as of Friday. All 45 Republicans are expected to vote for the bill, requiring 15 Democratic votes for passage. The two independents—Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Angus King of Maine—are no and “likely no,” respectively, according to a congressional aide.

“Well, we were one vote short as we left last week,” said Durbin on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday. “But I know they’re burning up the phone lines and e-mails trying to find that vote to support the procedural move. I don’t know how successful they have been.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is leading the effort to 60 in the midst of a heated runoff reelection race against Republican Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy, who sponsored identical Keystone legislation that passed the House Friday. Durbin acknowledged Sunday that the Keystone vote is political, as “every indication” predicts that President Obama will veto the three-page bill.

“Every indication is, the president will veto an attempt to preempt the regular process of reviewing the permit for this pipeline,” said Durbin on CNN. “I think that it should go through the orderly process. The Republicans believe that the president’s power should be taken away, it should be moved on a fast track. But, remember, the oil that is going to flow through that pipeline is not going to be used in the United States or reduce gas prices in the United States.”

TIME Basketball

NBA and Adidas Roll Out First-Name Christmas Jerseys

2014 Addidas NBA Christmas Day Games Jerseys
2014 Addidas NBA Christmas Day Games Jerseys Addidas

Only one player's jersey will remain the same

The NBA and Adidas officially unveiled a new way to sell more jerseys this holiday season: Put the players and fans on a first-name basis.

The 10 teams set to play on Christmas — the Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, L.A. Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors and L.A. Clippers — will sport the new NBA Holiday Collection gear for their games. Only Nene, of the Wizards, will be saved from the gambit.

Adidas said in a statement that the new jerseys serve “as a nod to [the players] familiarity and popularity with the NBA fan base around the world,” which makes sense when you consider LeBron, Kobe and Carmelo. But who would want to pay $109.95 for Tim [Duncan], John [Wall] and Kevin [Durant] jerseys? Every hoops-obsessed Tim, John and Kevin, of course.

The real question is how did they not think of this sooner? They put sleeves on the jerseys last year.

TIME Congress

Boehner Reelected As House Speaker

After extending their party’s House majority to the largest margin in decades, the top Republican Congressmen will all return to leadership roles for another two years.

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers all ran unopposed. National Republican Conference Chairman Greg Walden will continue to serve as the head of the effort to elect more House Republicans. The leadership election reaffirmed the election this summer following the primary loss of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Despite her party’s losses, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is all but certain to win reelection to her post on November 18. She lived up to her reputation as a fundraising powerhouse, raising over $100 million for Democrats this cycle.

Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats and Republicans voted Thursday to keep Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell as their parties’ leaders.

 

 

 

TIME 2014 Election

The Politics Behind Mary Landrieu’s Pipeline Power Play

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) holds a news conference with fellow committee member Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington on Nov. 12, 2014.
Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, holds a news conference with fellow committee member Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington on Nov. 12, 2014 Gary Cameron—Reuters

The Louisiana Democrat's move may be too little too late

Democrat Mary Landrieu’s attempt to force President Barack Obama to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is the latest in a political thrust-and-parry exchange between the three-term Senator and GOP Representative Bill Cassidy, her opponent in next month’s Senate runoff election in Louisiana. But Landrieu’s gambit may be too little too late, election watchers say.

The frantic maneuvering started Wednesday morning when Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell promised Cassidy a spot on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee if Cassidy beats Landrieu in the December runoff. Landrieu chairs the committee and has touted her tenure there as a symbol of her influence on Capitol Hill.

In response, Landrieu took to the floor of the Senate and gave a nearly three-hour speech calling for the body to take a vote on her bill, which would require Obama to clear the final bureaucratic and regulatory obstacles preventing construction of the pipeline.

The next move came from across the Capitol building, when House Speaker John Boehner and majority leader Kevin McCarthy fast-tracked Cassidy’s three-page bill to authorize the pipeline straight to the floor of the House, bypassing the committees that normally would have weighed the proposal. Cassidy’s bill (which matches the Senate language) will get a House vote on Friday.

When the Senate votes as early as Tuesday on Landrieu’s bill, it will be the first time in six years that both chambers of Congress will vote on the pipeline, according to the Washington Post.

“It’s been a dizzying 24 hours for a supposed lame-duck legislature as it relates to Louisiana,” says Joshua Stockley, an associate professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Landrieu’s gambit may help her re-election chances, but it comes at a cost. Forcing a Keystone vote in Congress will give McConnell and Boehner an unexpected win on the list of issues they want to tackle when the GOP takes control of both chambers of Congress early next year. White House press secretary Josh Earnest signaled Wednesday that the President would oppose the legislation, as he has in the past.

“We have indicated that the President’s senior advisors at the White House would recommend that he veto legislation like that,” said Earnest. “And that does continue to be our position.”

And it’s not even clear how much Landrieu’s push will help her chances. “Landrieu’s task is continuing to separate and distance herself from the President,” says Stockley. “Does Keystone help make that argument? Yes, but I would argue that’s been somewhat neutralized. Cassidy is going to be able to come back and say, ‘My language, my bill, I voted on it too.’”

“She’s going to have to do something more significant than the Keystone pipeline to beat Representative Cassidy,” he adds.

In last week’s race, Landrieu nabbed the top spot with 42% of the vote, compared with 41% for Cassidy and 14% for Tea Party candidate Rob Maness. She is facing an avalanche of ads and outside spending she can’t match (she lost the financial support of the group designed to get her elected, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) and an opponent bolstered by Maness’s conservatives. As TIME’s Denver Nicks notes, Landrieu’s team believes she’s got a shot if she wins 30% of white voters, up from just 18% she received in the general elections last week. Of course, Landrieu has won runoffs before, in 1996 and 2002, and has expressed hope for pulling out another victory.

“Are you a lost cause?” NBC’s Kasie Hunt asked Landrieu on Wednesday. “I don’t believe I am,” she replied.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser