Obama to Act on Immigration Reform

By EGP & City News Service

Some local Democrats were among those hailing President Barack Obama’s announcement Monday that he plans to use executive authority to make changes to the nation’s immigration system, but concern continued to mount over the fate of unaccompanied Central American children who have surged to the Texas border.

Obama has been pushing Congress for funding to bolster the nation’s ability to handle the sudden influx of immigrants and find places to detain children, while expediting their processing to return them and other immigrants who do not qualify for asylum to their countries of origin.

“The Obama administration has abandoned its responsibility and global leadership by seeking to deny vulnerable children fair and meaningful access to protection,” said Judy London, director of immigrant rights for Public Counsel in Los Angeles. “Our refugee and immigration laws must allow children to receive fair and full consideration of their reasons for fleeing violence and abuse. Children’s lives are at stake, and in times of humanitarian crisis you don’t dismantle legal protections. You make them stronger.”

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, said she supported Obama’s plans to use executive authority to address the immigration issues following “a year of excuses and inaction from House Republicans.”

“I also believe Congress should fully fund the president’s request for additional resources to address the child migration crisis along our southwest border,” she said. “However, we in Congress should be extremely cautious that we do not undermine the basic protections migrant children have under current law.

“Most of these kids fled their homes to escape violence and death, and it would be contrary to our values as a nation to return them to communities where their lives would once again be in grave danger.”

Obama lashed out at Republican leaders for failing to act on immigration legislation, saying, “America cannot wait forever for them to act.” He asked the departments of Homeland Security and Justice to submit recommendations by the end of summer on what steps he could take through executive authority to change the immigration system.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said congressional progress on immigration is unlikely due to Republicans’ belief that Obama will fail to enforce whatever laws are enacted.

“It is sad and disappointing that — faced with this challenge — President Obama won’t work with us, but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can’t and won’t fix these problems,” Boehner said.

Responding to Boehner, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement said the president “is right to bypass House Republicans and meet the enormity of this moment.”

“Responsibility for the historic failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform lies squarely, completely and embarrassingly at the feet of the Republican leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Trumka stated.

As many as 52,000 children have been detained so far, causing a logistical and humanitarian nightmare for the president, who has asked Congress for $2 billion to pay for detaining and deporting the women and children and to beef up border security.

“As the numbers of unaccompanied minors and mothers with children crossing our southern border grows, the U.S. government faces a critical test of its historic commitment to protect those fleeing violence and persecution,” the American Immigration Council said in an issued statement.

“How we respond will signal to the world whether our commitment to due process and the protection of refugees is real or illusory, and it could have a profound effect on how other countries around the world respond to our call to deal fairly and humanely to refugee crises in places like Syria and the Sudan,” the group said.

But there are those who believe that allowing the detainees to remain in the country will only lead to more people attempting to enter the country illegally.

On Tuesday, about 100 protesters blocked the relocation of 140 immigrant detainees, mostly women and children from Central America, to a Boarder Patrol processing center in Murrieta, Shouting, “We have our own kids to take care,” “Send them home,” “We want to be safe,” they forced the three buses carrying the detainees to turn back.

Immigration officials have not said what they will do next.

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July 3, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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