WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are fooling themselves if they think it's viable, smart or moral to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Wednesday evening.
The House is set to vote Thursday on a bill from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) that would prohibit the president from taking executive actions to exempt groups of people from deportation. The bill is Republicans' first attempt -- but certainly not the last -- to stop the executive actions on immigration that President Barack Obama announced last month.
"What we are sending to the floor of the United States Congress is yet another symbolic and superficial bill supporting the fantasy that every single undocumented immigrant should be deported," Gutierrez said at a House Rules Committee meeting. "The Republican majority is planting its flag firmly on a myth."
Under Obama's new executive actions, parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who can pass a background check and have been in the country for five or more years could apply to stay and work legally. Obama is also expanding his existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, that gives similar relief to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 16. The policies could protect up to 5 million people from deportation.
House Republicans have voted repeatedly on measures to end DACA -- effectively demanding that young people who came as children be put back at risk of deportation. They are set to do the same for parents on Thursday.
Republicans have said both measures are needed because Obama is overstepping his constitutional authority by exempting groups from deportation.
The Obama administration and many legal experts have argued the programs fit within the principle of prosecutorial discretion, allowing them to focus on criminals, national security threats and recent illegal border-crossers rather than law-abiding people with longstanding ties to the U.S. Since both programs are applied on a case-by-case basis, the administration argues it is not the blanket amnesty Republicans claim it to be.
Gutierrez laid out some of the costs of deporting every single undocumented immigrant. For one, it would mean millions of U.S. citizen children being put in foster care, taken in by family members or taken away from a country they have a legal right to reside in, he said. He said it also could put hundreds of thousands of houses on the market and leave farms lacking the workers they need.
He said the courts would be overburdened -- as they are already -- and unable to quickly deport high-priority offenders.
"Sorry murderers and rapists, you have to wait your turn for deportation because we want to arbitrarily round up and kick out all the moms and dads who were working at the car wash and playing ball with their children, and now the courts are full, so you will just have to chill," Gutierrez said.
There's also the cost. Gutierrez said the government would need to pay for 550,000 airplanes to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Unless Republicans are willing to raise taxes, that wouldn't be possible, he said.
The longtime advocate for immigrants said Congress should take up immigration reform instead.
"That is the way forward, and all the rest of this is incredibly wasteful theater that makes the American people say, 'What are those people in Washington doing? Because they sure are not taking action to help Americans and their families,'" he said.
Watch his testimony above.