Obama’s Immigration Order Draws Cheers and Criticism, Calls for Congress to Act

By David Cruz

Emotions were high today as immigrant communities celebrated the president’s action as an important step toward decriminalizing their dreams. Celia and her husband have lived here for two decades; their two children were born here. She says the president’s executive order means they can all stop looking over their shoulders.

“My biggest fear was that I would be separated from them,” she said.

Obama said he was acting where Congress had failed to, making it possible for parents of American-born children to stay here and apply for work permits and other documents that ease their way into authorized American life.

“I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers can be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers,” he said.

But, as expected, the president’s actions drew a sharp rebuke from congressional opponents, including speaker John Boehner, whose language was pointed.

“With this act, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan legislation that he claims to seek,” said Boehner. “And as I told the president yesterday, he’s damaging the presidency itself.”

“Other presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike, have done this because when you have over 11 million undocumented people in the country there have to be decisions made as to how to prioritize who we most want to deport and who are the people that it doesn’t serve anyone’s interest to go after,” noted Lori Nessel, the director of the Center For Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School.

While the president’s order — which included an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — affects around 5 million people, it is only temporary and leaves an equal amount still left on the other side of the door.

“What we’re talking about is covering a select group of undocumented immigrants, and it still leaves a significant number of people outside in the cold,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of the NJ Working Families Alliance. “We think a real progressive, comprehensive bill will have to take into account the 11 million, versus just 4 million people.”

Republican Congressman Leonard Lance said there would most likely be legal action to stop the president’s orders from going through. “The way forward is to determine in the courts if the United States and ultimately in the Supreme Court of the United States whether or not this goes beyond the powers prescribed in the constitution for the chief executive,” he said.

Whether they think the president went too far or didn’t go far enough, both sides agree that the permanent solution to this crisis remains in the hands of Congress.