By Mike Lillis - 06/15/12 03:31 PM EDT
Republicans are criticizing the Obama administration’s new leniency for some illegal immigrants as a politically motivated and possibly illegal effort to win over Hispanic voters.
The Republicans contend the new rules — which will prevent deportations for as many as 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children — circumvent the law just to buy Obama support from Hispanics ahead of November's elections, in which the Hispanic vote will likely be crucial.
“This huge policy shift has horrible consequences for unemployed Americans looking for jobs and violates President Obama’s oath to uphold the laws of this land," Smith said in a statement.
“How can the administration justify allowing illegal immigrants to work in the U.S. when millions of Americans are unemployed?” he added. “President Obama and his administration once again have put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people.”
On Twitter, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the policy would entice people to break the law.
“President Obama’s attempt to go around Congress and the American people is at best unwise and possibly illegal,” he tweeted. “This is a classic Barack Obama move of choosing politics over leadership.
“This decision avoids dealing with Congress and the American people instead of fixing a broken immigration system once and for all,” he said on Twitter.
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) piled on, arguing that changes of such significance should require the approval of Congress.
“We have representative government,” West said in a statement, “and I think right now this shows that we're getting away from government that's based upon the consent of the American people, and we're starting to live under a rule by edict or executive order.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new policy Friday allowing certain illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to remain in the country. The beneficiaries will not be eligible for U.S. citizenship, but they would be allowed to work and would no longer be targeted for deportation.
“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday in a statement announcing the policy. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case.”
The issue has been big on the presidential campaign trail this year, with both sides vying for a larger slice of the ever-growing Hispanic vote.
The issue has been a tough one for GOP contender Mitt Romney, who tacked far to the right on immigration during the Republican primary and has since sought ways to soften his position without alienating the conservative hard-liners of his base, who consider anything shy of deportation to be amnesty.