SAN JUAN, June 30 - Reaction to President Obama’s announcement that he is prepared to go it alone on immigration reform has been mixed in South Texas.
La Unión del Pueblo Entero, which assists colonia and low-income families, has made the issue its No. 1 legislative agenda item. However, the community group was guarded in its response.
In a statement, LUPE noted that Obama’s first step is to move resources from the interior to the border. At the same time, Obama is waiting for recommendations for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder on other ways that he can use his power to make changes to the system. LUPE pointed out that Obama expects those recommendations by the end of the summer.
“We have two months to see exactly what the president will do to change the system. While we are hopeful that the president's announcement heralds the relief that our communities need, we can't celebrate just yet,” LUPE said, in a news release.
“It could be that the recommendations, coming from a department that has caused so much suffering in our communities, are not so beneficial for our families and communities. Or it could be that the recommendations are a combination of help—like protections from deportation for some—and criminalization—like increasing Border Patrol presence and mandatory use of E-Verify.”
Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of LUPE, said: “The immigrant community is suffering because of congressional inaction. We hope that the president will take decisive action to alleviate the suffering. We will be ready to work so that as many of our community members as possible can take advantage of that relief. But we need to keep up the pressure during these next two months for executive action that protects our families from deportation while not criminalizing us even more.”
Valdez-Cox said LUPE staff and leaders will prepare and send to the Obama Administration a series of recommendations the president can enact “that will be beneficial to immigrant and mixed status families of the Rio Grande Valley.”
In remarks from the Rose Garden at the White House, Obama said he could not wait for House Republicans any longer and that he was going to proceed with his own actions on immigration reform. The Senate, controlled by the Democrats, passed its immigration reform package over a year ago.
Obama said he would make additional resources available to border enforcement and look to make changes to the Administration’s deportation policy. “If Congress will not do their jobs, at least we can do ours,” he said.
Click here to read President Obama’s remarks on immigration reform.
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Like LUPE, the CHC has made immigration reform its No. 1 legislative agenda item.
“President Obama is taking necessary action to bypass the gridlock that Republicans have forced here on Capitol Hill when it comes to bringing comprehensive immigration reform to a vote,” Hinojosa said. “I agree with the President wanting to move forward because I have seen firsthand the despair of parents and children who are separated from their families. I have met with agricultural businesses in my district and across the country that are having trouble staying afloat because they cannot find workers. Immigration reform is a moral imperative and this country must get past the politics and find a solution to this pressing problem.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was less complimentary. He said Obama’s actions have caused the current humanitarian crisis on the South Texas border, where tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants, many of them mothers and children from Central America, have crossed the Rio Grande.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) issued the following statement after the President announced he would continue to bypass Congress and make changes to existing immigration law through executive actions:
“It’s painfully clear that the President’s previous “administrative” or executive actions on immigration resulted in the current humanitarian crisis in Texas. Given the current crisis on the Southern Border, how can the President consider more pen and phone policy changes that will lead to another surge of illegal immigration and put more lives in danger?” Cornyn asked.
Lorella Praeli, policy and advocacy director for United We Dream, issued this statement in response to Obama’s remarks on immigration:
“President Obama’s remarks today were a welcome step forward as he explicitly rejected Republicans’ attempts to bully him into inaction and, instead, sent a strong signal that he is prepared to deliver relief for immigrant families through his existing executive authority.
“In recent weeks, Republicans have been desperate to exploit the crisis of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central American violence to take the heat off them for blocking immigration reform legislation in Congress. Republicans blamed DACA, attacked Dreamers, and tried to threaten President Obama away from taking executive action on behalf of immigrant families.
“However, while we welcome today’s remarks, after all the promises and rhetoric in support of immigration reform in recent years – only to be followed by excuses and inaction – we are past the point of celebrating mere words. We need to see actual substantive steps forward that protect immigrant families. UWD also remains in strong opposition to the separate news announced today that the Obama Administration will speed the deportations of unaccompanied Central American minors fleeing violence.
“Two years ago, President Obama held another Rose Garden ceremony to announce the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. More than 600,000 DACA recipients’ lives and futures were changed by the June 2012 announcement of the program. Yet our parents and families have remained under siege as the same Obama Administration that delivered us DACA has presided over record high deportations and as Republicans in Congress have blocked a permanent legislative solution. President Obama has the demonstrated discretion, legal authority, and moral responsibility to deliver deportation relief now and to build on one of his administration’s successes in DACA to include our parents and other immigrant families.
“This is an opportunity for President Obama to lead and to address the out of control deportations and family separations that have happened under his administration. As we’ve demanded throughout the year, Dreamers expect no less than expansive administrative relief that builds on DACA. We will continue fighting to ensure that the President delivers on affirmative relief for our community, and we will remind him that anything less will be unacceptable.”