Immigrant-rights activists held rallies around the country Tuesday to mark what would have been the start of President Obama’s second major executive action on immigration.
Obama announced plans to expand deferred action for undocumented parents and children living in the United States last November, but in February a Texas judge halted the president’s initiative, which would have stopped the deportation of millions of immigrants.
“Immigration is about our families, about our communities and we are taking note. In 2016 we are going to make it very clear with our vote that we want to see immigration reform” said Rocio Saenz, executive vice president SEIU, one of the leading organizers of Tuesday’s action.
From California to Maryland, Tuesday’s events included rallies, press conferences, vigils, and voter registration drives to get young Americans involved in the immigration debate.
“Young people are becoming much more active. They are basically sending a message. They are the growing electorate and they are going to be exercising that power they have for their families and for our community and for this country,” Saenz said.
Federal district court judge Andrew S. Hanen blocked Obama’s action in response to a lawsuit brought by Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas), along with 25 other states. The ruling primarily impacted Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), as well as an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ( DACA).
Last week 113 Republicans, including GOP leadership and presidential contenders, came out in support of the lawsuit, signing on to an amicus brief that accuses the president of overstepping his authority, The Hill reported.
“Executive amnesty benefits and in fact gives preferences to those who are here illegally, and it does so to the detriment of legal immigrants, of those who have followed the law and come here legally,” said presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who signed on to the amicus brief, during a Judiciary Committee hearing in March.
In New York City people also came out to argue against the president’s immigration reform, protesting against supporters of DAPA and DACA in front of the Jacob K. Javits Federal building, where naturalization ceremonies are held.
The White House said it was hopeful that the administration would eventually find success in the courts, and be able to fully implement the president’s plan.
“We continue to believe that that will have a positive impact on our economy. It will have a positive impact even on our budget deficit. And we certainly believe that it’s consistent with our values as a country,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest at a briefing last week.
On Capitol Hill, House Democrats held a press conference to advocate for the constitutionality of the president’s executive action on immigration.
“We’re here to say we’re ready and waiting for the opportunity to help all of these families that want to come out of the shadows,” said Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA).
In North Carolina, protesters traveled from Charlotte to Raleigh to try and persuade Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to pull out of the lawsuit.
North Carolina is part of the coalition of states, led by Texas, that are fighting against Obama’s immigration push.
“Today is the first day that a parent would have been able to apply for deferred action and we’re going to tell our governor that he needs to pull out of the lawsuit,” said Hector Vaca, an organizer in North Carolina.
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