President Obama is coming out swinging this week in defense of his executive immigration order, the focus of a bitter stalemate in the Senate over a Homeland Security spending bill.
His immigration order, which includes giving up to 5 million undocumented immigrants a three-year reprieve from deportation – as well as work permits and federal benefits – is under fire from the courts as well. A federal district judge in Texas last week issued an injunction against the order about a day before the administration was to begin accepting applications for one program included in it.
In an op-ed in The Hill that appeared Tuesday, Obama said he would not let the challenges to the order go without a fight. The Department of Justice asked Texas Judge Andrew S. Hanen to stay his order blocking the executive order. It plans to defend the order in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Obama reiterated his contention that he issued the executive order after Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Republicans have objected to the executive order, saying it was unconstitutional and an end-run around Congress to give a pass to millions of people who have broken immigration laws.
“Make no mistake, I disagree with this judge’s ruling,” Obama wrote. “Just yesterday, the Department of Justice asked the court for an emergency stay of this misguided decision, and it has already filed a notice of appeal. My administration will fight this ruling with every tool at our disposal, and I have full confidence that these actions will ultimately be upheld.”
Obama’s executive order includes lifting deportation for three years for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States before the age of 16, as well as for those who have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
Hanen blocked the order as part of a lawsuit that Texas filed and that now includes 25 other states.
The plaintiffs say the president overstepped his authority, and that giving possibly up to 5 million undocumented immigrants a chance to legally work and live in the United States, even if for a few years, would put undue burden on states.
Hanen largely agreed, saying that the Obama administration’s proposal not only “ignores the dictates of Congress but actively acts to thwart them.”
Earlier this year, the House passed a GOP-led Homeland Security spending bill that includes provisions that seek to block the president’s order. But the effort has stalled in the Senate, where Democrats have blocked a vote that would allow debate on the House bill.
That has held up approving the Homeland Security spending bill, which can lead to a partial shutdown of the agency by this weekend. Late Monday, after Democrats blocked debate on the bill a fourth time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would split language overturning Obama's contested immigration measures from the department's funding.
Obama’s op-ed took aim at the squabble in Senate.
“We’ve even heard irresponsible threats to shut down the Department of Homeland Security, the very agency tasked with securing our borders and keeping Americans safe in a time of new threats, for no reason other than partisan disagreement over my actions,” he wrote.
He said it was time to put politics aside.
“While I will fight any attempt to turn back the progress we’ve made or break up families across our country, I welcome the opportunity to work with anyone who wants to build on the improvements we’ve put in place,” he said, “and fix our broken immigration system once and for all.”