By Mike Lillis - 07/24/14 04:28 PM EDT
Texas Republicans are pressing President Obama to take the southern border crisis into his own hands.
Even as Congress jousts over a legislative response to the influx of child migrants from Central America, the lawmakers contend the president can take unilateral steps to end the crisis immediately.
"You have the authority to stop the surge of illegal entries by immigrant minors today," the Republicans wrote Thursday in a letter to Obama. "Enforcing current immigration laws will go a long way to solving the border crisis."
The lawmakers, including all of Texas's 24 House Republicans, as well as GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, laid out five steps they say Obama could take without congressional approval to address the crisis. [READ GOP LETTER TO OBAMA]
The recommendations include empowering local law enforcement agencies to prosecute federal immigration laws; cracking down on immigration fraud; speeding up deportations of the new arrivals; and ending the administration's deferred action program, which allows some illegal immigrants brought to the country as children to remain and work without fear of deportation.
Although the new arrivals at the border are explicitly ineligible for the deferred action program, the Texas Republicans say it has nonetheless encouraged migrants by sending "the regrettable message that illegal immigration will not be punished in the United States."
Much of the debate has centered around a 2008 anti-human trafficking law that mandates certain due process protections for unaccompanied children arriving from countries other than Mexico and Canada.
Cornyn, along with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), is pushing legislation to alter that law to allow the Central American migrants to return home voluntarily without the mandatory legal proceedings, a proposal opposed by most Democrats.
Obama has also asked for "more flexibility" under that law to expedite the deportations, but he's suggested he needs congressional approval to do so.
The Texas Republicans disagree, accusing the president of using the 2008 law as "an excuse" to cover up his "failure" to end the crisis.
"The majority of immigrants apprehended at the border during this crisis can be legally repatriated immediately," the lawmakers wrote. "Instead, you have permitted almost all to remain in the United States, further encouraging illegal immigration."
Democrats have pushed back hard against the GOP criticisms. They note that the immigrant protections were created by Republicans more than a dozen years ago. Furthermore, they're wondering why the same Republicans who are threatening to sue Obama for executive overreach are simultaneously accusing the president of failing to exercise the full powers of his office.
"They won't call him an emperor when he's … speeding up the process," Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Wednesday.