Despite setbacks from a federal court decision and a determined GOP Congress aimed at blocking his sweeping executive actions, President Obama plans to forge ahead by speaking directly to the immigrant community that must now weather yet another delay to protections from deportation.
The president will hold a town hall meeting in Miami on Wednesday to address the Latino community after a Texas judge temporarily blocked the immigration actions from moving forward this week. The event, presented in both English and Spanish and held at Florida International University (FIU), will be led by Telemundo and MSNBC host José Díaz-Balart.
“We’ve chosen this town hall forum because the president has a desire to engage in a genuine conversation about issues important to the community,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told msnbc. The televised event will also provide Obama a platform to reach Latinos across the country, Earnest continued, while engaging with Miami's vast immigrant community. “It makes for an interesting, dynamic place and a great symbol of how immigration has made our country unique.”
Obama first introduced his executive actions to great fanfare last November by extending temporary work status and a shield from deportation to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants. The unilateral actions were met with swift resistance from Republicans who believed the president overstepped his authority by protecting broad swaths of the U.S.'s undocumented immigrant population. In Congress, Republicans have sought a strategy to starve the Department of Homeland Security's funding in efforts to unravel the unilateral actions. And this week, the measures hit a major hurdle when U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen sided with a lawsuit brought by 26 states, and issued a preliminary injunction on the unilateral actions.
The decision marked a crushing blow to hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who had waited months for the first day of enrollment to open up. Instead, just one day before the program was slated to launch, administration officials announced on Tuesday they would comply with the judge’s orders and postpone the executive actions indefinitely.
The Obama administration remains adamant that the law is on its side and that the executive actions will ultimately move forward as planned. The Justice Department swiftly responded to the ruling by announcing Tuesday that officials plan to appeal Judge Hanen's decision. "We will continue to press this through the legal process, and we are confident that this will prevail," Earnest said. But days out from the judge's decision, administration officials still could not say what action the DOJ planned to take.
One option promoted by some advocacy groups would be for the Justice Department to request an emergency stay from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. But still, the administration’s arguments would have to sway a three-judge panel of conservatives in New Orleans, in a process that would likely take a matter of weeks. And even if the appeals court lifts the injunction, it’s likely that further appeals would kick the issue up the chain to the Supreme Court.
Even in the best case scenario for the administration, time is not on its side.
In a 123-page ruling issued around midnight Monday, Judge Hanen did not directly question presidential powers or Obama's authority to use prosecutorial discretion in determining how the administration carries out immigration laws set by Congress. Instead, Hanen said the administration ultimately failed to comply with a small procedural step in failing to seek comments from the public before implementing the new programs.
Hanen largely sided with arguments brought by the 26 states that the unilateral measures will cause a resource drain for local governments. “The court finds that the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country,” he wrote. “Further, the record supports the finding that this lack of enforcement, combined with this country’s high rate of illegal immigration, significantly drains the states’ resources.”
"We’ve chosen this town hall forum because the president has a desire to engage in a genuine conversation about issues important to the community."'
The Texas judge's decision is likely to fan flames in Republican efforts to dismantle the president's measures through a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Congressional Republicans hit a roadblock when Democrats in the Senate filibustered a bill to keep DHS running through September on the condition of rolling back the president's executive actions on immigration both past and present. Lawmakers have just until Feb. 27 to avert a DHS shutdown.
The looming shutdown and recent court ruling triggered rounds of rallies across the country this week as undocumented immigrants protested Republican-led efforts to roll back protections.
“The baseless Republican lawsuit is just another desperate attempt to delay the inevitable, and to keep people like my mother living in fear of deportation,” Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream said in a statement Thursday, pressing for the administration to file for an emergency stay. “As Republicans continue pushing their mass-deportation agenda in the courts and on Capitol Hill, it is the President’s responsibility to act immediately, use every resource available to ensure that millions of people will be able to be protected from deportation immediately.”