By: Kevin Diaz
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House passed a Republican-led resolution Thursday backing the state of Texas' challenge to President Barack Obama's unilateral action deferring the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants.
The resolution, volubly opposed by Democrats, passed along party lines, with 234 GOP lawmakers backing the measure. Five Republicans were opposed. Democrats, who have filed a separate brief to the Supreme Court, voted uniformly against the GOP measure.
The resolution, strongly backed by Republicans in the Texas delegation, fuels an election-year legal battle, with the House of Representatives formally weighing in against Obama's 2014 executive orders on immigration, which critics say exceed his constitutional authority.
The move authorizes House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.,to file a "friend of the court" brief opposing Obama in the case of U.S. v. Texas, which the Supreme Court could decide by June.
"This is about the integrity of our constitution," Ryan said. "[The] separation of powers could not be clearer."
Texas has taken the lead among 26 states challenging Obama's actions. The Supreme Court – minus the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia – is scheduled to hear arguments in the case next month.
The Obama initiative would extend deportation deferrals and work permits for undocumented workers with deep roots in the U.S. The program was temporarily blocked last year by a federal judge in Brownsville, Texas. After being upheld on appeal, the decision is now under high court review.
Immigration activists denounced the House action as a political stunt inspired by GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who has taken a hard line against illegal immigration. "Today's vote has nothing to do with the Constitution and everything to do with the Republican Party's Trump-like strategy to build political power by fomenting anger, division, and xenophobia," said Jessica Karp Bansal, litigation director at the National Day Laborers Organizing Network.
Texas Republicans, who rallied around Ryan, said it is about enforcing the law.
"I see this as an issue of constitutional importance," said Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, a former Harris County judge. "The issue is not immigration. The issue is whether or not the executive may issue a memo overriding Congressional law. I do not believe he has the authority to do so."