WASHINGTON (AP) — Forty-three Republican senators on Monday joined the legal challenge to President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, arguing that the president overstepped his constitutional authority in unilaterally expanding programs for immigrants.
The White House has countered that Obama had no choice after comprehensive legislation that passed the Senate in 2013 stalled in the GOP-led House.
The senators, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of United States v. Texas. A lawsuit from 26 states, led by Texas, challenges Obama's actions, with the Supreme Court set to hear arguments later this month and possibly rule in June.
"Because the executive's orders contravene the letter and the spirit of the immigration laws, and threaten the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution," the senators said they submitted the brief.
Obama acted in late 2014 to allow people who have been in the United States more than five years and who have children in the country legally to "come out of the shadows and get right with the law." He also announced the expansion of a program that affects people who came here illegally as children.
Last month, the House voted 234-186 to authorize Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to file a similar friend-of-the-court brief. Ryan's office said late Monday that the brief had been filed.
Immigration has roiled the GOP presidential campaign, with Donald Trump calling for removing millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, accusing some Mexican immigrants of being rapists and murderers, and pledging to build a wall along the U.S. border that he will make Mexico pay for.
After losing the Hispanic vote badly in the 2012 election, Republican leaders insisted the party needed to be more inclusive for a diverse electorate if the GOP had any hope of winning the presidency. A bipartisan group of senators crafted a broad overhaul of immigration that boosted border security, increased visas for legal immigrants and a provided a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
Among the GOP senators who worked on the legislation were Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. All three were among the 43 backing the legal brief and challenge to the president.
Not signing onto the brief were four of the more vulnerable Republicans facing re-election — Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Also among the 11 who didn't sign on were Jeff Flake of Arizona, Dean Heller of Nevada and Cory Gardner of Colorado, all states with a significant Hispanic population.