Published December 20, 2015
President Obama said illegal immigrants who would be eligible for protection from deportation under his recent, disputed executive orders should plan for them to be upheld in court.
"People should be gathering up their papers, make sure you can show you are a long standing resident of the United States," Obama said Wednesday evening at a town hall meeting hosted by the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo. He said immigrants should make sure that by the time the legal issues are sorted out, "you are ready to go."
A federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked Obama's executive action earlier this month at the request of a coalition of 26 states who claim in a lawsuit that the president overstepped his legal authority.
On Wednesday, Obama said he expected to win when a U.S. circuit court hears his appeal, but added that his administration will "take it up from there" if the appeal fails, in an apparent reference to the Supreme Court. He said at each stage of the process, the White House believes it has the better argument.
"This is just one federal judge," Obama said of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who put Obama's order on hold. "We have appealed it very aggressively. We're going to be as aggressive as we can."
Dismissing those hoping for a presidential about-face, Obama insisted he was "absolutely committed" to the new policy, which he described as focusing deportation efforts on felons.
"We are reorganizing how we work with state and local governments to make sure that we are not prioritizing families [for deportation]," Obama said. "And you are gonna see, I think, a substantial change even as the case works its way through the courts."
As Obama spoke in Miami, another immigration drama was playing out in Congress, where lawmakers were attempting to fund Homeland Security over the insistence by some Republicans that Obama's immigration actions be repealed at the same time. Obama derided Republicans for holding national security funding hostage and said he would veto a stand-alone measure to repeal his actions being contemplated in the Senate.
Of Jeb Bush, a likely Republican candidate who is one of his party's more moderate voices on immigration, Obama said he appreciated that the former Florida governor was concerned about fixing the immigration system.
"I would suggest he talk to the speaker of the House and the members of his party," Obama said.
Fox News' Kelly Chernenkoff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.