Three immigration fixes that Obama doesn’t need Republicans for

Originally posted on Quartz:

On Nov. 5, the president assured the public that he will take executive action to fix the country’s immigration system by the end of the year. House Speaker Boehner has already warned Obama that executive action will obstruct the future passage of a comprehensive reform bill, so why is Obama, after a midterm drubbing of his party, raising the stakes with Republicans, when it seems as if he should be trying to find common ground? Simple: the president is on the line to act because he’s made this immigration promise to the American people before, and then backed down. And the American people have not forgotten: Exit polling after the midterm elections had nearly six in 10 voters saying they were “dissatisfied” with the president—with one in seven citing either foreign policy or immigration as the reason. Obama has to act, to fulfill his promise, and to preserve his legacy as a president…

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This morning’s must read: @seungminkim’s Proxy fight–several GOP senators positioning themselves around an immigration fight

If the Senate GOP leadership permits Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to turn the Lynch Attorney General confirmation hearing into a proxy fight over the President’s authority to make the immigration system work better until Congress passes an overhaul of the dysfunctional law, it’ll be proof positive that the GOP has been gaming the country on immigration reform the whole time, that they never intended to do anything other than implement the nativists’ mean spirited call for “self deportation.”

Posted on Politico

By Seung Min Kim

11/10/14 11:24 PM EST

Updated 11/11/14 5:58 AM EST

Senate Republicans plan to turn the battle over attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch into a larger debate over immigration, using the confirmation hearings as a proxy war over presidential power rather than a debate over Lynch’s qualifications.

Lynch, who would be the first black female attorney general, is considered a strong nominee, with a long record as a federal prosecutor. That makes the political fight over Barack Obama and his executive powers a much better bet for Republicans who took control of the Senate riding the president’s unpopularity.
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The Republicans’ early strategy, according to comments from senators and several Republican aides close to the Judiciary Committee, centers on whether the president has the authority to bypass Congress on immigration — allowing Republicans to write their own narrative on the nomination.

“The president is increasingly on a smaller and smaller island if he goes forward with this action and the next item of business is the nomination of the attorney general,” one Senate Republican aide said Monday. “Don’t underestimate the capacity for that to become a major battle front.”

Several GOP senators are publicly positioning themselves around an immigration fight.
Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah have signaled that immigration will be a large part of their line of questioning against Lynch when her confirmation process begins, which they said should happen after the new Republican majority is seated in January.

“The nominee must demonstrate full and complete commitment to the law,” Cruz and Lee said in a joint statement. “Loretta Lynch deserves the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities, beginning with a statement whether or not she believes the president’s executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the strategy.
But Hill Democrats say the Republican plan could backfire.
“I don’t think that issue should be central to Loretta Lynch’s confirmation,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Monday, adding that he said he wanted to see Lynch considered and confirmed “promptly.”

Since Attorney General Eric Holder said in September he planned to step down, a handful of other Senate Republicans have signaled the issue of executive action on immigration would be a central issue in confirming his successor. For example, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama has, for weeks, been encouraging fellow senators to oppose any replacement for Holder who does not “firmly reject” Obama’s plan for executive action on immigration.

The chatter is preliminary — Congress is officially back in session Wednesday, and senators will have more time then to hash out a more formal strategy on Lynch’s nomination process. But key aides on Monday sketched out an initial strategy that centers on grilling Lynch — the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York — over Obama’s pending immigration action and whether she backs it.

A slew of other hot-button issues are sure to surface during Lynch’s confirmation hearings, such as the Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal, the contentious debate over voter ID laws and executive overreach, Republican aides added.

“Decisions and actions by President Obama and Attorney General Holder have made the proper bounds of executive power a critically important issue for this confirmation process,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday, signaling that will be a priority in deciding whether to confirm Lynch.

But the dominant issue will be immigration — and President Barack Obama’s looming executive action that could potentially halt deportations for millions of immigrants here without legal status. Obama has promised to keep his pledge to Latino and immigration advocates to act on deportations by the end of the year.

Senate Democrats don’t think the strategy will work.

“With Republicans on these issues, they always run the risk of overreach,” added a Senate Democratic leadership aide. “She’s not tied to the administration, she hasn’t had a tie to any of these past executive actions. … Efforts to tie her down to that stuff would come across as overly political.”

No decisions have been made on when the Senate will take up Lynch’s nomination to be the nation’s chief law enforcement official, officials said Monday. But one Democratic leadership aide said senators were leaning toward installing Lynch in the new Congress, when the GOP will be in control of the chamber.

Senate Democrats are banking on the view that the twice-confirmed Lynch, who would be the nation’s first black female attorney general with the Senate’s blessing, would be qualified enough to be confirmed under a Democratic- or GOP-led chamber.

“She should have no difficulty whatsoever on the merits,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Monday. “There is not a scintilla of factual basis to challenge her.”
The lame-duck session leaves an already truncated timeline to handle a high-profile nomination such as attorney general, and Congress is already buried under other must-do legislative priorities. The process to confirm Lynch has barely started on Capitol Hill — the Judiciary Committee has yet to receive Lynch’s paperwork, an aide said — and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has made National Security Agency reform his top priority in the lame-duck session.

Republicans prefer to leave the task of confirming Lynch to the new Congress. Presumptive incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that Lynch should be “considered in the new Congress through regular order.”

Incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has pledged a “very fair, but thorough” vetting, noting that U.S. attorneys are “rarely” promoted straight to the attorney general spot.
“So I look forward to learning more about her, how she will interact with Congress and how she proposes to lead the department,” he said.

In theory, the Senate could begin the nomination process in the lame-duck session under Leahy and continue in the new Congress under Grassley, Democratic aides said. When the Senate considered the nomination of John Ashcroft for attorney general in 2001, a handful of the hearings were held under Leahy and later under Hatch, who assumed the Judiciary chairmanship in late January 2001.

But that option doesn’t appear to be under serious consideration for now, and Republicans are sure to gain seats on the Judiciary Committee in the new Congress. If the process begin during the current Congress and continues into the next, new Republican members may not get the opportunity to question Lynch.

Still, other Senate Democrats want to clear her nomination quickly. In an interview Monday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said confirming Holder’s successor should be done as soon as possible, pointing to the continuing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, as one area that awaits the incoming attorney general.

“I believe we have an obligation to confirm the attorney general as quickly as we can,” McCaskill said. “I think we need to do our work, unless there’s a problem with this woman’s background.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

WATCH: The politics of immigration reform–American needs it, so why don’t we have it?


From America’s Voice

Watch Seleste’s message begging President Obama not to deport her husband below, then sign the petition to keep Pedro at home!

There’s so much at stake for this family — will you take a moment and help?

Send a message telling immigration officials in the Obama Administration to stop Pedro’s deportation now!

What Obama’s delay on executive action means for immigrant families

My client, Mr. Pedro Hernandez Ramirez, is the primary caretaker for Juan, his 25 year old step-son who suffers from severe cerebral palsy. Pedro cares for Juan’s physical and emotional needs. Pedro is also a father to 3 more U.S. citizen children. But ICE Detroit views him as an “immigration enforcement priority”. A year ago, after we fought tooth and nail for a reprieve, ICE agreed that Pedro should be permitted to stay with his family. But last week, in cold bureaucratic fashion, ICE refused to extend Pedro’s stay. He again faces immediate deportation.

How will tearing apart this loving American family make our borders safer and our communities more secure?

The Faces of Delay: Executive Action Will Come Too Late for Families Facing Deportation

National Immigration Advocates and Ohio Families Decry Political Gamesmanship, Highlight Real Human Costs of Obama’s Delay


To listen to a recording of today’s call, click here.


OHIO – With President Obama’s decision to delay executive action on immigration until after the November elections, the hopes of thousands of American families facing deportation were dashed. On a press call today, national, local immigration advocates, legal experts, and family members—including those profiled by Julia Preston of the New York Times today—discussed current Ohio deportation cases in the pipeline and the many good people and families who simply don’t have two months to wait for action on immigration. 


As Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA Ohio, explained “As an advocate working with Latino communities in the small towns of northern Ohio, I can tell you that the lack of action on immigration from both Congress and the administration has created a disaster with a very real and devastating human toll, particularly on American children who are being impacted by the loss of a parent by the tens of thousands. We are in a state of emergency.”


The situation in Ohio has captured national attention in the past.  The cases outlined on today’s call provide a representative sampling of what other communities are experiencing all across the nation as both Congress and the President fail to act.

David Leopold, Ohio based immigration attorney and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), is currently representing Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez—husband to a U.S. citizen and primary caretaker to his stepson, Juan, who has cerebral palsy.  After being granted a one-year stay of removal in 2013, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detroit Field Office Director Rebecca Adducci denied Pedro’s recent request to renew his stay despite the fact that no equities in his case have changed (ready more about Pedro and his family in today’s New York Times or on America’s Voice’s websitehere).


“ICE’s decision to tear Pedro away from his family is incomprehensible. Not only is it a brazen act of cruelty, it blatantly ignores the enforcement priorities already put in place by the President.  ICE Detroit seems to have missed the memo which says they are supposed to remove violent criminals and security risks, not people like Pedro Hernandez or Luis Nicassio Padilla,” said Leopold on today’s call.  “The President’s postponement of action on deportations until later this year would be less worrisome if ICE consistently adhered to the Administration’s enforcement priorities.  Truth be told, if ICE field offices actually followed the prosecutorial discretion directives that Obama has already issued, millions of undocumented immigrants would be granted temporary reprieves from deportation now.  Yet, unfortunately that is not the case. We are forced to fight tooth and nail for each reprieve—even in cases like Pedro Hernandez’s where deportation directly threatens the health and well-being of a severely disabled US citizen.”


Said Pedro’s wife, Seleste Wisniewski-Hernandez, “I really need the government to have mercy on my family and other families feeling this pain.  I have a lot of physical pain within my body, but there’s no pain deeper than leaving my soul mate and the glue to our family behind.  I can’t imagine life without Pedro.  This is a living nightmare.  Let him step up to the plate and let him continue being the good husband and father he’s been.  We can be productive individuals of the United States but only if we’re together.”  She added, “I cannot do it without Pedro.  It’s just not going to be able to happen.  I’m begging for mercy.”


Pedro’s stepdaughter, Stephanie Rodriguez, said, “Breaking apart a family…I don’t think it’s the correct way to do anything.  The whole puzzle that we’ve built over the years is going to fall apart over something that can be fixed right now, but ICE refuses to do so.  Pedro’s the one who helps my brother, who helps me make decisions like whether to join the Marine Corps, the reasons why or why not.  If they deport him, I can’t go and leave my family torn apart.  It’s like I’ve been saying, Mexico doesn’t need him as much as we do.  We’ve been through enough already, and he can’t be replaced.”


Fatin Askar is a Columbus, OH based immigration attorney currently representing Marinela Martinez-Magana, who is facing deportation and separation from her long-time partner and three U.S. citizen kids.  After trying to pay a traffic ticket, ICE whisked her away in handcuffs and issued an immediate deportation order, demanding that she leave the country by the end of the month (read more about her story at NBC 4 i here).


Said Askar on today’s call, “Every day immigration reform is stalled means a thousand more a day are being deported, including individuals like Marinela who would have qualified for protection under executive action, but because she is being forced to leave the US and her 3 young children by next month she will not have the opportunity to do so.”


“Separation will be really hard for us,” added Neri Diaz, Marinela’s longtime partner and father to their three U.S. citizen kids. “I just want the president to keep families together. We’re really not criminal people. We just want to raise our kids.”


Concluded, Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “These are just a few examples of the types of heartbreaking cases we’re seeing in Ohio and across the country.  ICE agents are using tortured definitions of ‘enforcement priorities’ to ensnare peaceful, productive residents.  Pedro and Marinela are not priorities for deportation, they’re priorities for their families.  They can’t afford to wait two months for the elections to be over.  They need the Administration to act now.”


To listen to a recording of today’s call, click here.


Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice. 
America’s Voice – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform


Obama cannot afford to break another promise on #immigration

Posted on The Hill Congress Blog

Is President Obama about to delay his executive authority to make the immigration system work better until Congress acts?

It’s an important question, especially in light of what he said on Labor Day.

“Hope” Obama declared “is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights and workers’ rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigration rights.”

Obama’s inclusion of “immigration rights” together with the epic struggles of American democracy – civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights, gay rights and workers’ rights – suggests he sees the struggle for immigration reform as an historic movement not tied to party or politics but inherent to the American democratic experience.
Notice the president used the term “immigration rights” not “immigrants’ rights”?

“Immigration rights” carries with it political, social and cultural significance while “immigrants’ rights” is a more direct reference to redress of rights through the courts. “Immigration rights” on the other hand suggests something inherent; rights that may not yet be on the books, but are nevertheless embedded in our Constitution as are the rights of minorities, women, and LGBTs.

If the president truly views “immigration rights” with the same reverence he does the rights of minorities, women, and LGBTs then how can he morally, ethically or politically justify not using his constitutional authority to fix the system where he can? Did President Kennedy, postpone confronting Gov. George Wallace at the University of Alabama when he tried to block the admission of African American students in 1962 before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act?

It’s also a question of integrity. The president stood in the Rose Garden on June 30, lambasted the House GOP for refusing to take up immigration reform, and promised that he would “act without delay” once he received recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s a promise Obama cannot afford to break.

Those words resonated loudly among Latino voters, nearly a quarter of whom have a relative or friend who’s been detained or deported by the Obama administration. Latinos remember that in 2008 candidate Obama promised he would champion immigration reform during his first term in office, but then he broke his promise and deported two million people. They remember that June 2012 when he needed support for his reelection, Obama apologized to the Latino community, granted a deportation reprieve to young undocumented immigrants, and again promised he would fix the immigration system if he was reelected. And Latinos remember that the president was reelected with over 70 percent of their vote.

It’s true that the president is under pressure from some in his own party to wait until after the midterm election to act on immigration. They believe it’s the “safe” thing to do. But voters actually prefer politicians who keep their word, exercise leadership, and take chances over those who play it safe. And the political considerations are far less salient than the moral imperative of doing what the President knows is right—using his executive authority to blunt the harshness of an outdated, rigid, anti-family immigration law.

The president has been called the “Deporter-in-Chief,” and after six years of relentless deportations, his legacy is surely on the line. If he wants to be remembered for an immigration record other than record deportations, he must keep his word to the American people and do what he can to make the immigration system work—without delay.

Leopold is an Ohio-based attorney and the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).


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