Homeland chief faces critics on immigration
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is defending President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration even as Republican lawmakers work to find the best way to stop them.
"The reality is that, given our limited resources, these people are not priorities for removal. It's time we acknowledge that and encourage them to be held accountable," Johnson said in prepared testimony. "This is simple common sense."
His testimony came as Republican lawmakers returned to Congress from a weeklong Thanksgiving holiday break still divided on how to stop Obama.
Obama's plan enraged Republicans on the heels of the November elections in which they retook control of the Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives.
Conservatives have been agitating to use any government funding bill to block Obama's moves, but Republican Party leaders fear that could result in a veto by Obama and a subsequent government shutdown, a scenario they are determined to avoid.
Instead some lawmakers are pushing a different approach: a full-year spending bill for most government agencies, combined with a shorter-term measure for departments that deal with immigration.
"The president's decision to bypass Congress and grant amnesty to millions of unlawful immigrants is unconstitutional and a threat to our democracy," the Homeland Security Committee chairman, Michael McCaul said in a statement. "I will use every tool at my disposal to stop the president's unconstitutional actions from being implemented, starting with this oversight hearing."
Obama also expanded an existing program that grants work permits and deportation deferrals to immigrants brought to the US illegally as children, and reordered law enforcement priorities to focus on deporting new arrivals and people with criminal records.
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