Obama aide says U.S. deserves permanent immigration reform
President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration reform remain bogged down in the courts on the first anniversary.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
The U.S. "deserves" permanent immigration reform, White House domestic policy director Cecilia Muñoz said Friday in an interview with EFE on the first anniversary of President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration reform, which remain bogged down in the courts.
"What this country deserves is permanent reform and that is solely in the hands of Congress. Meanwhile, this president will continue to do what he can," the Bolivian-born Muñoz said.
The permanent changes we need are "in the hands of Congress" and the fight for reform "must continue," she said.
Coinciding with the first anniversary of Obama's plan, which would protect an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, the administration formally entered an appeal Friday with the Supreme Court to try to put those measures into effect.
The appeal asks the Supreme Court to revoke an injunction against Obama's executive orders that was handed down almost two weeks ago by the New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in response to a request by a coalition of 26 mostly Republican-governed states.
With this appeal, "we are asking for action and an answer" from the Supreme Court, according to Muñoz, who expressed hope that the high court wil hand down its decision before the end of next June.
Muñoz acknowledged to EFE the very real possibility that the Supreme Court will decline to hear the case, and if that should happen, it will be up to the Justice Department to decide how to proceed.
In her view, the chief obstacle to passing immigration reform in Congress "has always been for political reasons on the Republican side," but that the president "will continue putting on the pressure" to get it done.
In mid-2013 the Senate passed a bipartisan bill for comprehensive immigration reform that was backed by Obama, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refused to put it to the vote.
Now, however, the Republicans also control the Senate and, at the beginning of the month, the new speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Ill.), made it clear that Congress will not process any kind of immigration reform while Obama remains in the White House.
In Ryan's words, the president it scarcely trustworthy on immigration matters since he tried to "unilaterally rewrite the law" with his executive orders.
Muñoz said Friday that Obama decided to take action on his own with those executive orders "only" after Ryan's predecessor as speaker, Republican John Boehner, "called him to say he wasn't going to do anything" toward passing immigration reform.
The executive plan announced by Obama on Nov. 20, 2014, includes a program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, aimed at halting the deportation of people with children who have permanent residence or citizenship.
It also includes an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, to protect undocumented young people who came to this country as children.
Muñoz noted Friday that those "who have hopes of qualifying for those programs are also low priorities for deportation," and said that "the immigration service is not arresting" those people.
Obama's adviser also recalled that DACA, launched by the government in 2012, continues in effect and the number of young people benefiting from it has now mounted to almost 700,000.
"But the whole country knows we need more," Muñoz said.