By John McCain and Jeff Flake
The Arizona Republic
Sunday, November 23, 2014

Last year, President Barack Obama said that taking executive action on immigration was "not an option" because it would amount to "ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally."

Previously, he said executive action "would not conform with my appropriate role as president," and "that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written."

On this, we couldn't have agreed with President Obama more.

That's one reason we are so deeply troubled by his decision this week to do an end run around Congress and order new executive action on immigration. These unilateral orders not only lack legal justification but promise to set back important bipartisan efforts in Congress to reform our broken immigration system and secure our nation's borders - key priorities for Arizona for which we have long fought.

Immigration is an issue that must be debated and decided by the representatives of the people, not by executive fiat. We had hoped that President Obama would, at the very least, give the new Congress a chance to engage on this issue next year before contemplating any action.

But it is now clear that he is more interested in using the issue to the Democrats' political advantage in 2016 than he is in reaching across the aisle to address this pressing national challenge once and for all. Unfortunately, in recent years, this kind of presidential undermining of real opportunities for immigration reform has become all too typical.

The president's unilateral action fails to address the root causes of the dysfunction in our immigration system that Arizonans know well, including an insecure border, the absence of a rational, efficient guest-worker program to meet America's urgent labor needs, and a broken system for legal immigration, which fails those around the world who seek the American dream by actually following U.S. law.

Executive action also fails to provide a responsible approach to permanent relief for those living and working without legal status inside the United States and harms the chances for Congress to reach a compromise resolving their legal position. Finally, unilateral executive action will only incentivize increased illegal immigration, opening the floodgates to more visa overstays and illegal entries across our southern border.

As President Obama has said, he is not "a king" or "the emperor of the United States," and he isn't legally able to unilaterally change immigration law any way he sees fit. Congress has a responsibility to respond and push back on his illegal power grab. Congress must be creative in using all the tools in our toolbox - including mounting a legal challenge - to oppose the president's action.

At the same time, we believe that Republicans must remain committed to advancing the broad, common-sense conservative agenda we share, which the American people voted for on Election Day this month. We must prove to the American people that we can legislate solutions and govern effectively. Our nation has big challenges at home and abroad, and we Republicans must rise to the occasion and address them.

As the president has said, democracy is often difficult and taking unilateral action can be tempting. But, in the end, these actions will make an already-broken immigration system even more dysfunctional and the challenging task of coming to bipartisan agreement even more difficult to reach.

That would be a disservice to Arizona, which feels the impact of the failing status quo, and the urgent need for reform, like nowhere else in America.   back...
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