President Obama said in an interview with Telemundo, the Spanish-language television network, that using his executive authority to halt deportations for most illegal aliens is “not an option.” He instead urged viewers to push House Republicans to pass “comprehensive immigration reform.”
With no movement in the House on immigration legislation, some illegal-alien advocates have been pushing the president to unilaterally stop further deportations as he did for certain illegal aliens under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. To make this case, eight illegal aliens today chained themselves to the gates outside the White House.
"When he said he didn't have the power to stop deporting DREAMers, we built a powerful case with grassroots pressure and legal analysis and won a monumental victory with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," said Cristina Jimenez of United We Dream. "He does have the power to stop deportations and we will keep challenging him." Jimenez refers to stance Obama took earlier in his first term, and then reversed just prior to the 2012 election. Advocates like Jimenez hope Obama will change his mind again if a legalization bill does not pass this year.
In the Telemundo interview, Obama defended the stays of deportation under DACA, but said extending temporary amnesty to larger portions of the illegal-alien population would risk violating immigration laws passed by Congress. "What we can do is ... carve out the DREAM Act folks, saying young people who have basically grown up here are Americans that we should welcome," Obama said. "But if we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that's not an option."
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said the Administration is already ignoring its immigration-enforcement responsibilities and further action to stop deportations would undermine any chance of an immigration bill reaching Obama’s desk. "If the president unilaterally grants relief to the entire unlawful population, such an action would effectively kill immigration reform," Goodlatte said.
Obama urged Telemundo viewers to affect change through Congress. “I do get a little worried that advocates of immigration reform start losing heart and immediately think, ‘if Congress doesn’t act, we’ll just have the president sign something'…There’s a path to get this done, and that’s through Congress. And right now, everybody should be focused on making sure that that bill that’s already passed out of the Senate hits the floor of the House of Representatives.”
Obama also chided House Republicans for delaying action. “What’s stopping [Boehner] from going ahead and calling that bill? … [he] shouldn’t be afraid of [the GOP’s] majority opinion on this thing...You’ve got a president who says that this is a number-one priority and he can’t wait to sign a comprehensive immigration reform bill.”
But the president did not object to the piecemeal approach House Republican leaders are considering. “I'm happy to let the House work its will as long as the bill that ends up on my desk speaks to the central issues that have to be resolved," he said. The priorities he outlined included improving border security, penalizing employers who take advantage of illegal workers, and providing citizenship for illegal aliens.
Although some illegal-alien advocates are taking their case directly to the president, they are still pushing for movement in the House. “A handful of extremists in the House of Representatives wants to stop anything progressive, anything that means something to working people, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants,” said Jaime Contreras of the Service Employees International Union. “It’s time for Republican leaders to start standing up to the extremists and let them know that inaction is not an option for us. We will not stop until we win this fight.”
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