NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — From a lawsuit to a backlash.
President Barack Obama has changed United States immigration policy amid major blowback on Capitol Hill.
However, Republicans are furious and promising retaliation, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Friday.
It was just a week ago that Kramer spoke to “Sara,” an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador. She was so afraid of deportation she would only talk to Kramer with large sunglasses hiding her face and a hat on hiding her hair.
“For me, it means getting out from the shadows. I can get a better job to support my family,” Sara said.
With President Obama signing memos to change immigration policy, she is afraid no more.
“I was afraid to be arrested,” Sara said.
In the U.S. for 10 years and with a 9-year-old daughter born here, an American citizen, Sara will be covered by the president’s action, which shields nearly 5 million immigrants from deportation, including the parents of children born in the U.S., and those who have been in the country for more than five years.
But the big question is whether Republican retaliation will send her back to the shadows.
“We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country and places lives at risk,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.
Boehner said the president’s actions are illegal and has vowed to strike back. Obama is sticking to his guns, unilaterally imposing the most sweeping immigration reforms in decades.
“It continues the promise that here in America you can make it if you try, regardless of where you come from, regardless of the circumstances of your birth,” the president said.
Republicans haven’t made up their minds just what to do to derail the president. Some want to sue; some want to deny funding to agencies that must implement the policy, Kramer reported.
“The House will, in fact, act,” Boehner said. “We will listen to the American people, we will work with our members and we will work to protect the Constitution of the United States.”
The situation poses a major challenge for Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., barely two weeks after midterm election victories that handed Republicans control of the Senate and increased the party’s majority in the House.
Obama’s move forces them to inaugurate their newly minted congressional majorities amid frantic GOP infighting that party leaders wanted to avoid. With Republicans seething over Obama’s go-it-alone approach on such a contentious issue, it’s an open question whether Boehner and McConnell will be able to rein in the tea party faction in Congress that forced a politically damaging government shutdown a year ago over the president’s health care law.
The answer will have major implications in determining whether the GOP can hang onto its newfound control of Congress and hope to win the White House in two years.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Obama is going about the issue all wrong.
“I’m opposed to the entire concept of an executive order,” King said. “This has to be done through Congress with the president signing it at the end.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., one of the fiercest opponents of Obama’s actions, ruled out impeachment, telling the conservative Heritage Foundation, “we are not going to impeach or move to impeach.” Sessions did insist that the Congress can use its power over spending to affect the immigration initiative.
“What did the president do? He pulled the pin on the grenade two weeks after the election,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, a Boehner ally. “I don’t think anybody knows or can predict what happens and the carnage that this creates quite frankly for the legislative process.”
Boehner took issue with Obama’s claim that he had to act because House Republicans never moved on the bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate last year. That measure offered a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrants here illegally, going further than Obama can on his own.
Boehner said it was Obama’s fault because lawmakers didn’t trust him after earlier unilateral moves on health care.
“He created an environment where the members would not trust him, and trying to find a way to work together was virtually impossible,” Boehner said. “I warned the president over and over that his actions were making it impossible for me to do what he wanted me to do.”
Conservative lawmakers are pushing to insert language in upcoming must-pass spending bills to block Obama’s order. Party leaders warn that could lead to a government shutdown.
The chairman of the House Appropriations Chairman, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., also argues it is impossible to “defund” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services because it pays for itself based on application fees.
Rogers is pushing for a yearlong spending bill to get spending fights out of the way, and then finding some other way to respond to Obama.
That’s angered some conservatives who argued that establishment Republicans were just looking for a way out of a necessary confrontation with the president.
“They’re contriving red herring arguments to get to the point where enough members will walk out of this Congress and go home for Thanksgiving and say, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do,”’ said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who was among a small group of conservatives arguing impeachment should be on the table as a last resort.
But while the fight raged in Washington on Friday, New York officials were calling on the district attorneys to crack down on scam artists who might seek to take advantage of members of the immigrant community, Kramer reported.
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