Immigration Order Imminent: What's GOP's Next Move?

Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa), one of the leading voices in opposition to immigration reform, volunteered that “the audacity of this president to think he can completely destroy the rule of law with the stroke of a pen is unfathomable to me. It is unconstitutional, it is cynical, and it violates the will of the American people. Our republic will not stand if we tolerate a president who is set upon the complete destruction of the rule of law.”

King added that Congress “cannot allow Barack Obama’s anticipated unconstitutional act to be implemented, for if it is it will destroy the pillars of American exceptionalism. Come what may – we must always protect the Constitution.”

But should Obama proceed he won’t be the first president to issue an executive order offering some form of protection for illegal immigrants under current law. Two Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, extended amnesty to some undocumented workers who had family members living in the U.S.

In 1986, Congress passed the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Reform and Control Act, which remains in effect. The law provided legal status to about 3 million undocumented workers who entered U.S. territory before 1982. But spouses and children who didn’t meet those requirements were targeted for deportation.

Congressional efforts to change the law failed. So in 1987 the Immigration and Naturalization Service under Reagan declared that minor children of parents who were granted amnesty would not be deported.

Regardless, congressional Republicans are trying to stop Obama in his tracks. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) sent a letter to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, asking that the panel prohibit funding for any immigration executive order Obama might issue.

Salmon said the president already has indicated that he intends “to pursue a course of unilaterally granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.”

“He claims this will be for their benefit, but it is the most detrimental action he could take toward reform of our nation’s immigration laws,” Salmon said, asserting that any such action “would kill any possibility of meaningful reform in the future.”

Salmon noted that 62 members joined him in signing the letter.

“Our Constitution makes clear that the president is not free to act as he sees fit without regard to our laws,” Salmon said. “It also includes language that gives Congress the power of the purse, a tool that has been used many times before to rein in out-of-control executive actions. If the president is intent on defying the will of Congress and the American people, then Congress must be willing use their constitutionally-mandated tools to stop him.”

And there have been whispers of impeachment if Obama proceeds, although it doesn’t appear the GOP will reach that far. King said it should be considered and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) raised the specter during a recent interview on “American Forum’’ carried by NewsMaxTV.

“Well, impeachment is indicting in the House and that’s a possibility,” Barton said. “But you still have to convict in the Senate and that takes a two-thirds vote. But impeachment would be a consideration, yes sir."

For his part, Obama noted that the Senate passed acceptable legislation on June 27, 2013, by a 68-32 vote and the situation warrants action since the House has refused to act after almost 17 months.

The legislation would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers living in the U.S. It also would add 40,000 Border Patrol agents.