Apr 24, 4:51 PM EDT

GOP senators attack Obama deportations review


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 21 other Republican senators accused President Barack Obama on Thursday of displaying "an astonishing disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law and the rights of American citizens" by considering administrative changes to the nation's deportations policy.

In a letter to the president, the senators said that changes under consideration would amount to "near complete abandonment of basic immigration enforcement."

The Associated Press reported this week that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is conducting a review ordered by Obama on how to make the administration's policy on deportations more humane, is weighing limiting removals of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who don't have serious criminal records. Other changes also are possible.

With comprehensive immigration legislation stalled in the GOP-led House 10 months after Senate passage, Obama is under intense pressure from immigrant advocates to act on his own to curb deportations and allow some of the 11.5 million immigrants in the country illegally to stay here.

Thursday's letter, circulated by the Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, underscores the political risk in an election year as Republicans seize on the review as the latest example of presidential overreach.

"Our entire constitutional system is threatened when the executive branch suspends the law at its whim and our nation's sovereignty is imperiled when the commander in chief refuses to defend the integrity of its borders," the senators wrote.

In a statement, Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard didn't respond to the senators' complaints but said, "The secretary has undergone a very rigorous and inclusive process to best inform the review."

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