Obama aide: US ‘deserves’ permanent immigration reform

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama administration asks Supreme Court to review proposal giving work permits to immigrants.

Washington – The U.S. “deserves” permanent immigration reform, White House domestic policy director Cecilia Muñoz said Friday in an interview with EFE on the first anniversary of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration reform, which remain bogged down in the courts. “What this country deserves is permanent reform and that is solely in the hands of Congress. WASHINGTON — The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to overturn lower courts and declare that the president has the authority to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to remain and work in the United States without fear of deportation. AP Photo WASHINGTON, United States—President Barack Obama’s administration on Friday formally asked the US Supreme Court to uphold measures it enacted shielding four million undocumented migrants from deportation.

Moving quickly to put the issue before the justices in time for a decision while President Barack Obama is still in office, the administration called for the court’s immediate review of its plan to protect and give work permits to as many as 5 million immigrants. Immigration has become a central issue as politicians gear up for the 2016 presidential race, especially after Republican frontrunner Donald Trump claimed that Mexico was sending drug dealers and “rapists.” The 45-page appeal challenges lower federal court rulings that blocked Obama’s efforts to reform parts of the US immigration policy via executive order. The first part of the president’s executive action, known as DACA, is an expansion of an existing program that defers deportment of children brought to the U.S. illegally.

The case raises major issues involving the separation of powers and federalism, and it has been one of the major flash points of disagreement between the Democrats and Republicans running for president. The second part , known by the acronym DAPA, provides relief from deportation and work authorization to undocumented parents of U.S citizens and permanent residents. In New York, the executive order could provide relief for up to half a million people — and activists on Friday gathered at City Hall to press for a speedy resolution. “My younger brother received his papers a year later and my parents would have qualified for DAPA last year had it not been for the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision,” she added.

If the court agrees to hear and decide the case by late June, and if the justices side with the administration, that would leave roughly seven months in Obama’s presidency to implement his plans. The administration contends that the states have no legal standing to sue because it is up to the federal government to set immigration policy and that the Department of Homeland Security did not violate federal laws in devising the new program.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition called it a “critical moment” for immigration reform in the U.S. — especially in light of the controversy over the influx of Syrian refugees in Europe and domestically. “Our nation needs to return to its values of being a welcoming nation, one that has been made vibrant and strong by waves of newcomers to our shores,” Choi said. As a practical matter, the government says it does not have the resources to annually deport more than about 400,000 of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. In mid-2013 the Senate passed a bipartisan bill for comprehensive immigration reform that was backed by Obama, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refused to put it to the vote. A federal court in Texas in February ruled against the administration, as did a federal court in Louisiana in early November—putting the program on hold and prompting the current appeal.

In Ryan’s words, the president it scarcely trustworthy on immigration matters since he tried to “unilaterally rewrite the law” with his executive orders. Texas and others said the plan runs afoul of federal laws and saddles states with providing benefits for millions of people now eligible for work permits and other forms of government aid.

The executive plan announced by Obama on Nov. 20, 2014, includes a program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, aimed at halting the deportation of people with children who have permanent residence or citizenship. Muñoz noted Friday that those “who have hopes of qualifying for those programs are also low priorities for deportation,” and said that “the immigration service is not arresting” those people. Obama’s adviser also recalled that DACA, launched by the government in 2012, continues in effect and the number of young people benefiting from it has now mounted to almost 700,000.

The decision by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to file the government’s petition Friday starts a process that would allow the court, absent any delays, to do just that. But they also took aim at Republican presidential candidates. “Immigrant-bashing and hate-mongering is not going to get them elected in 2016,” said Jaime Contreras, vice president of the Service Employees International Union affiliate 32BJ SEIU. About 231,000 people were deported in the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to internal government documents obtained by The Associated Press.

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