New York Times
By Julie Hirshfeld Davis
February 25, 2015
President Obama called on congressional Republicans on Wednesday to renew financing for the Department of Homeland Security and promised to veto any measure that tried to gut his executive actions on immigration.
“Instead of trying to hold hostage funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is so important for our national security, fund that, and let’s get on with actually passing comprehensive immigration reform,” Mr. Obama told about 270 people at a town-hall-style meeting at Florida International University.
He was referring to Republican efforts to block his immigration plans while still financing most of the department. Their idea is to prevent any money, whether through the appropriations process or through fees collected from immigration applications, from being used for any of the president’s existing or future executive actions on immigration. Homeland Security financing will expire on Friday unless Congress passes, and Mr. Obama signs, a bill to continue providing it.
If Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, “want to have a vote on whether what I’m doing is legal or not, they can have that vote,” Mr. Obama said. “I will veto that vote.”
The president’s directives, which would shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and grant them work permits, are not only under fire in Congress. A Texas judge has also temporarily blocked them, and Mr. Obama used the meeting on Wednesday in a heavily Hispanic area of Miami to promote his policies and to take Republicans to task for opposing them.
“I’m using all of the legal power vested in me in order to solve this problem,” he said. “We’ve got some disagreements with some members of Congress and some members of the judiciary about what should be done, but what I’m confident about is, ultimately, this is going to get done.”
The meeting, broadcast on the Spanish-language network Telemundo, highlighted the anger Mr. Obama still faces among many Hispanics about his immigration record, including his failure to push through a broad overhaul while the Democrats held majorities in both houses of Congress during his first term.
The president tangled at times with the moderator, José Díaz-Balart of MSNBC, who read a question from a participant charging that both parties had used the immigration issue for political gain.
“That’s just not true, the notion that Democrats and Republicans played political Ping-Pong,” Mr. Obama shot back.
“Democrats have consistently stood on the side of comprehensive immigration reform,” the president told Mr. Díaz-Balart. “You do a disservice when you suggest that, ‘Ah, nobody was focused on this.’ ”
“The blockage has been very specific on one side,” Mr. Obama added. “Let’s not be confused about why we don’t have comprehensive immigration reform right now. It’s very simple: The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, refused to call a bill.”
At another point, he interrupted Mr. Díaz-Balart, who had asserted that many Hispanic voters were skeptical that they could influence the political process.
“It’s not a game — wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Mr. Obama said. “Let me tell you something: This is not a game.”
He said voters must keep up the pressure on Congress and the Republicans who run for president in 2016 to back a more permanent measure that would give undocumented immigrants a pathway to legal status.
“When they start asking for votes, the first question should be, ‘Do you really intend to deport 11 million people?’ ” the president said. “ ‘And if not, what is your plan to make sure that they have the ability to have a legal status, stay with their families and, ultimately, contribute to the United States of America?’ ”
Mr. Obama said his administration was aggressively defending his executive actions in court. In the meantime, he said, immigrants who would qualify for deportation reprieves and work permits under those actions — including people brought to the United States as young children, and the parents of American citizens — should be confident that they will not be deported. He said he had ordered immigration and border officials to focus on criminals and recent immigrants in carrying out any deportations.
“Even with legal uncertainty,” Mr. Obama said, “they should be in a good place.”
His trip to Miami coincided with the first full week the Department of Homeland Security had been scheduled to begin carrying out part of the program.
The Texas court’s ruling blocked about 270,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children from applying for the new protected status, a process that was to begin last week. After that decision, the White House announced that it was delaying a second program, scheduled to begin in May, that would offer about four million immigrants with children who are American citizens a reprieve from deportation and a chance to work.
The administration has filed for an emergency stay of the ruling to let the changes take effect.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com