HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Alabama lawmakers made swift, strongly-worded responses to President Obama's Thursday night speech in which he explained his executive actions on immigration policy reform.
In his address to the nation, Obama defended his actions and challenged GOP lawmakers to focus on approving legislation to eventually take the place of those actions.
Senator Richard Shelby called Obama's actions a plan to "unilaterally grant amnesty to millions... who have broken our nation's immigration laws."
"I strongly oppose providing amnesty to those who have entered our country illegally," Shelby said in a statement. "Border security, enforcement, and removal must be the first response to illegal immigration. President Obama's failure to enforce our nation's immigration laws has led us to where we are today and his decision to reward lawlessness with amnesty places additional undue burdens on the American people."
Senator Jeff Sessions also blasted the president's executive action, warning that law enforcement officials believe it will "unleash a tidal wave of new illegal immigration flooding into American neighborhoods at taxpayers' expense."
In a statement, Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard said that by signing the order, it proves "Obama isn't listening to the strong message that outraged voters across the country," and that the president "is refusing to see the disastrous long-term effects that blanket amnesty will have on our economy."
Obama, in his address, refuted claims that his actions amounted to amnesty, calling amnesty "the immigration system we have today... millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules."
"He does not have the legal authority to do what he's doing," said Constitutional lawyer Mike Seibert of Huntsville. "There is no question it's amnesty. If somebody can come in, violate the law and say 'Okay, you're not going to be subject to the law, as long as you come in,' that's amnesty."
Another Constitutional lawyer, Larry Becraft, said that executive orders have been signed by presidents, but they have not rewritten legislation, which Becraft contends Obama has done.
"It's real important to know what is the law that backs up and authorizes a president to engage in whatever he's proposing by means of an executive order. In order for the president to do something like this, he's got to pinpoint what his legal authority is," said Becraft. "Even tonight, with the president on TV, he makes no mention of 'what is my legal authority for it."
Becraft added that the Chief Executive Officer of the nation is supposed to carry out public policy as manifested in the immigration and naturalization laws as currently written, and that "coming along and implementing his amnesty is contrary to those laws."