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President Obama Takes Charge of the Immigration Debate

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Makes it clear he won’t be intimidated into inaction by Republican demagoguery

Today President Obama met with advocates in the White House, and then went out to the  Rose Garden to make remarks on immigration.  Here is a response from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Today President Obama stepped up on immigration.  This stands in sharp contrast to Republicans, who are sinking to new lows.

First,  the President recognized the sad truth that Republicans have blocked the best chance at enacting landmark immigration reform legislation in a generation.  Second, he was clear that in the absence of legislation he intends to keep his promise to use existing legal authority to do what he can to protect as many undocumented immigrants as possible.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue their lame efforts to blame the President, to sue him for doing his job as the nation’s chief executive  and to demagogue the issue related to Central American children who are fleeing violence.

The bottom line is that President Obama made it clear today that he won’t be intimidated into inaction by Republican histrionics and distortions.  The Republicans may have abdicated any role in responsible governance – regarding the 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in America, and regarding the arrival of kids at our border – but the President is prepared to take charge and deal with both.

From refocusing enforcement priorities at DHS and DOJ to building on affirmative relief programs like DACA, President should use every ounce of executive authority to begin the long overdue process of fixing our nation’s dysfunctional immigration system.  With Republicans more interested in scoring points than in solving problems, we look forward to the President doing what he can through executive action until we have a House of Representatives that will enact a permanent legislative solution.

At the White House meeting there was a very spirited exchange regarding the Administration’s approach to Central American kids who are coming to the U.S.  While the President acknowledged the Administration’s commitment to fair proceedings for kids in need of protection, he also made it clear that his approach would include deterrence measures aimed at preventing kids from taking the dangerous journey to the border.  Advocates expressed our concerns concerned that the flexibility being requested of Congress could lead to shotgun proceedings that result in the deportation of kids in need of protection.

But the purpose of the meeting was to discuss immigration reform.  We agreed that legislation is the best solution, that it will be enacted into law in the future, that Republicans have squandered an historic opportunity to enact it and now that the President will have to step in to do what he can to start the process.

This is a big moment.  For when the President follows through, and if the executive action is robust, the differences between the two parties on an issue that mobilizes the fastest growing groups of new voters in the country will be cemented for a generation.