Several immigrants disrupted a House hearing on Tuesday, and charged lawmakers who oppose immigration reform with trying to separate families who are already living in the United States.
"My daughter was born here. why do you want to separate my family?" one woman asked early in the hearing. "Stop separating our families," said another man.
"Stop deportation," several other chanted as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) asked police to escort all disruptive members of the audience.
Later in the hearing, when Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) started speaking, another wave of protestors interrupted.
"I got 19 years, and then I have citizen children in this country," said one woman.
"Hey, I've been in this country for 30 years, man, thirty years," said a man. "This is an injustice, man. I mean, it's crazy. Thirty years and you can't pass a bill. It's ridiculous."
Another woman pleaded, "My children were born in this country! We follow the rules! We have our rights too!"
The protests marked a full day of immigration-related events in Washington on Tuesday. House Republicans started the day in a meeting in which they tried to figure out how they might scale back President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration, although Republicans were not able to finalize a plan.
In the morning, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing in which the chairman accused Obama of hypocrisy for saying he could not act on his own, then changing his mind.
At the Judiciary Committee hearing, several experts said they believe Obama had no right to go around Congress and create a new form of legal status for illegal immigrants, and allow them to work.
"Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa wondered how the President has the authority, unilaterally, to suspend or delay the employer mandate," said Ronald Rotunda, a law professor at Chapman University. That is a very good question and I have no answer to it."
"President Obama's actions are unconstitutional, violating the separation of powers and exceeding even his considerable prosecutorial discretion," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. "Congress's refusal to enact the President’s preferred policies does not
provide a lawful pretext for violating our nation’s vital restraints on executive authority."
"[T]here are limits on prosecutorial discretion," said Thomas Dupree Jr., a former principal deputy assistant attorney general under President Bush. "Generally speaking, it applies to individual cases—situations in which, in the judgment of the prosecutor, it would be unjust or otherwise inadvisable to apply the full force of the law based on the circumstances of an individual case."
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of theNational Immigration Law Center, was the only witness to say Obama acted legally. "There is a great deal of agreement in the courts about the wide latitude that Executive officials have when determining whether to prosecute apparent violators of the law," she said.