Latino organizations and leaders across the country agree that President Obama made the right move when he issued his executive actions to protect millions of immigrants from deportation in the absence of congressional action.
But not all Latinos support the presidents move.
Alfonso Aguilar, former head of the U.S. Office of Citizenship under the George W. Bush administration and now executive director of American Principles Projects Latino Partnership, is one of them. He said Obama shouldve waited for the new Congress to convene before he issued his executive actions last year.
I thought his action was highly irresponsible, Aguilar said in an interview with VOXXI. He shouldve given time to the new Congress to act, because the reality is that the only way we can fix our dysfunctional immigration system is by both parties working together and finding a permanent legislative solution.
Obama announced his executive actions in November, saying he was tired of waiting for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation.
His actions include the expansion of a deferred action program for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and a new deferred action program for the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
As many as 5 million undocumented immigrants stand to benefit from the presidents actions.
GOP Latino leaders disagree with Obamas executive action
Many Latinos applauded Obama for taking action on immigration after Republicans blocked a Senate-approved immigration reform bill that received bipartisan support. In fact, a Latino Decisions poll found that 89 percent of Latino voters support the presidents use of executive authority on immigration.
But other Latino leaders, many of whom lean Republican, oppose the presidents move as well. That includes Hector Barreto, former head of the Small Business Administration under the Bush administration and now chairman of The Latino Coalition. He thinks the president shouldve waited for the new Congress to act.
After the president did his executive action, I said that I just didnt feel that it was going to be effective for a lot of reasons, Barreto told VOXXI. Number one, I think it was the wrong way to start with a brand new Congress. He may have had problems with the old Congress, but he didnt even try to work with the new Congress.
Barreto called the presidents move on immigration a temporary solution that leaves out many undocumented immigrants, including some whove been in the country for many years. He also warned that the next president could reverse Obamas executive actions.
Meanwhile, Daniel Garza, executive director of The LIBRE Initiative, said he is sympathetic to the intent behind Obamas executive actions but said he believes the presidents actions violate the rule of law.
Its not like were opposed to executive action because it benefits immigrants. Thats not it at all, Garza told VOXXI. The reason why I have stated opposition to the presidents executive action is because of what it does to the rule of law. It doesnt uphold the Constitution, and it doesnt honor our established legislative process.
Legal battle over Obamas executive actions
Garza isnt the only one who questions the legality of Obamas executive actions.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen is also critical of the legality behind the presidents move on immigration. Last week, he issued a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the implementation of the two deferred action programs that Obama announced as part of his executive actions in November.
In an op-ed published Tuesday by The Hill, Obama wrote that he disagreed with the preliminary injunction ruling. He also noted that the Justice Department on Monday asked for an emergency stay that would put Hanens ruling on hold while his administration appeals.
My administration will fight this ruling with every tool at our disposal, and I have full confidence that these actions will ultimately be upheld, Obama wrote.
Aguilar is also confident Obama will ultimately prevail in the legal battle to defend his executive actions. Unlike most conservative Republicans, he doesnt question the legality of the presidents actions and instead believes that what Obama did is legal and constitutional.
The problem, Aguilar insisted, is that Obama shouldve given the new Congress at least a year to come up with a legislative solution. Now itll be more difficult to pass an immigration reform bill in Congress, because the president has poisoned the well, he said.
Garza also said he is not very optimistic that the president will be able to actually achieve any kind of immigration reform. But he said that could change if Republicans govern right and offer legislation that would replace the presidents executive actions on immigration.
If they would propose permanent solutions right now on immigration, they would be the darlings of the Latino community, Garza said about Republicans in Congress. But theyre listening to that 20 to 30 percent faction of the Republican Party that is opposed to immigration reform.
Barreto echoed that message, saying: Were not happy with the executive order, but nobody is talking about what is the path forward. How do we get legislation? We want to see the Republicans in Congress lead on this.
GOPs strategy to block Obamas executive actions
But instead of working toward an immigration reform bill, Republicans are busy trying to pass a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security and block the presidents executive actions on immigration. Senate Democrats, however, have filibustered the House-approved bill four times this month.
Congress has until Friday to pass a bill. Thats when DHS is set to run out of funding.
Seeking to avert a partial shutdown of DHS, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a new strategy on Tuesday. The GOP leader indicated he would allow a vote on a clean DHS funding bill, followed by a second vote on separate legislation that would halt Obamas executive actions on immigration.
Aguilar said he thinks McConnells strategy may work. But he also bashed Republicans who insist on using the DHS funding bill as a way to block Obamas executive actions. He said that strategy being pushed by some Republicansincluding Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabamawont work because the president already said he would veto the bill and Republicans wouldnt have the necessary votes to override the veto.
Aguilar also warned that if Congress doesnt pass a bill to fund DHS by Fridays deadline, Republicans would be blamed.
You have people like Cruz and Sessions saying, No, Republicans are not going to be blamed. Theyre going to blame the president and Democrats, Aguilar said. Thats just not true. I think the American people will blame Republicans, because they control Congress.
I think more than anything Republicans have to look at replacing the executive action with permanent legislation that includes a path to legal status for the undocumented, he continued. Theyve had enough time to vent, to complainand, frankly, I understand it. But at some point they have to lead, and the sooner the better.