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Senate Republicans say memo seeks 'amnesty'

By Jeanne Meserve, CNN Homeland Security Correspondent
A Maricopa County sheriff's deputy processes an illegal immigrant in Phoenix, Arizona, on Thursday.
A Maricopa County sheriff's deputy processes an illegal immigrant in Phoenix, Arizona, on Thursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Republican lawmakers say administration 'scheming' on illegal immigrants
  • Agency says memo meant only for brainstorming
  • 12 senators want Homeland Security to respond to concerns
RELATED TOPICS

Washington (CNN) -- Senate Republicans have an internal memo from the Department of Homeland Security that they say shows the Obama administration "conspiring" and "scheming" to allow millions of illegal immigrants to stay and work in the United States.

At issue is an 11-page memo prepared for the head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services entitled, "Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform." It was obtained by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who said the intent of the memo is "to find very secret creative ways to unilaterally circumvent the law and have a backdoor to amnesty."

The memo says, "The following options ... used alone or in combination ... have the potential to result in meaningful immigration reform absent legislative action."

It lays out how to reduce the threat of removal for many illegal immigrants through administrative and regulatory changes, characterizing one as "a non-legislative version of amnesty."

Citizenship and Immigration Services says it was merely a brainstorming memo. In a statement, the department said, "Internal memos do not and should not be equated with official action of policy of the Department. ... DHS will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation's entire illegal immigrant population."

Grassley says it is "ridiculous" to think a memo containing this kind of detail was drawn up without specific direction from someone in the administration. "Bureaucrats don't write memos like that for the fun of it," he said.

Grassley and 11 other senators are asking Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to disclose how many times the agency has used its "discretionary authority to let people who are illegally in the country to stay."

A news release from Grassley's office stated, "This authority is meant to be used only in unusual, emergent or humanitarian circumstances. The administration has yet to answer our letter about reports that it may be planning a large-scale, defacto amnesty program through deferred action and parole."

The letter was signed by Republican Sens. Grassley, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, David Vitter of Louisiana, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama.