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Thursday, February 19, 2015
Cruz warns Obama, stop spending on amnesty plans for illegals
Ruling undercuts Senate Democrats’ homeland security funding filibuster, Texas Republican says By Stephen Dinan
Sen. Ted Cruz warned the administration Wednesday that it needs to stop even planning for an eventual amnesty for illegal immigrants, saying a federal judge’s broad injunction means it would be illegal for the Homeland Security Department to spend any money on President Obama’s immigration plans.
The Texas Republican also said Judge Andrew S. Hanen’s ruling late Monday undercuts the basis of Senate Democrats’ ongoing filibuster to block homeland security spending, which the president’s allies have launched to try to defend the White House’s immigration policies.
The warning to Mr. Obama to stop spending money on the amnesty opens the door for another potential fight between Mr. Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress and could leave the president open to another legal challenge as well.
“The district court’s order was abundantly clear: The federal court enjoined any and all aspects of the illegal amnesty order,” Mr. Cruz said. “If the Department of Homeland Security continues moving forward, that on its face is in violation of a federal court injunction.”
Mr. Obama said he would comply with the order but his Justice Department will plan an appeal. The president also insisted that the Homeland Security Department continue its preparations in case a higher court lifts Judge Hanen’s injunction. That means advancing on plans to hire hundreds of employees and contractors to process the applications, even though no money is coming in to pay for the expansion.
Mr. Obama planned for Wednesday to be the first day for applications under the amnesty, but Judge Hanen’s ruling sent the White House scrambling for another legal strategy, leaving illegal immigrants fuming and prompting a rebuke from the Mexican government, which said it “regrets” the court order.
In a statement Tuesday, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said its citizens who are living illegally in the U.S. have earned the right to stay.
“These programs are a just remedy for millions of families and have the potential to strengthen the important contributions that Mexican immigrants make to the American economy and society,” the ministry said.
Mexico vowed to continue providing its citizens who are living illegally in the U.S. with documents so they will be ready if Judge Hanen’s order is lifted and the amnesty goes into effect.
Immigrant rights activists in the U.S. still held application workshops Wednesday, though the message was far less upbeat than what they anticipated two days earlier.
“While anti-immigrant forces are trying to throw up roadblocks, here in New York we are moving forward to prepare the 300,000 individuals who would benefit from this relief,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Spanish-language network Univision said it would proceed with its plans for blanket coverage of the amnesty, but instead of focusing on the application process, analysts said the stories were politically devastating to Republicans hoping to win over Hispanic voters.
Jorge Ramos, Univision’s nightly news co-anchor, posted on Twitter after Judge Hanen’s decision calling the federal court ruling a political issue for Hispanic voters: “The Texas decision clearly defines who is against immigrants in the U.S. Latino voters will remember; 2016 is not that far away.”
Activists predicted an eventual court victory, though there was no word from the Obama administration on whether it would ask a federal appeals court to stay Judge Hanen’s order or go ahead with a full appeal, which would take more time. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that decision will be made in the next several days.
Mr. Obama’s amnesty would apply to more than 4 million illegal immigrants in two categories. Most of those who qualify are illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and a much smaller number are Dreamers, or illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Mr. Obama created a deportation amnesty for Dreamers in 2012 but expanded it in November.
Judge Hanen ruled, in a lawsuit brought by Texas and 25 other states, that the amnesty for parents and the expanded amnesty for Dreamers was illegal because the president didn’t follow a law requiring him to solicit public comment before making a major policy change. Judge Hanen said Mr. Obama was not using its powers of “discretion,” as the administration claimed, but rather writing laws himself “from scratch.”
The judge said he stopped at the point where Mr. Obama’s actions violated the law, and he never had to decide whether the moves also violated the Constitution.
Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican fighting the president’s actions, said Judge Hanen’s ruling strengthens the Republican argument against providing funds for the Homeland Security Department.
“Now it becomes even more clear that the Senate Democrats who are trying to block this by protecting the president — they’re the ones who are saying they’re not interested at all in their oath to defend the Constitution,” Mr. King said.
Congress is on a weeklong recess from Washington with a Feb. 27 deadline looming to fund the Homeland Security Department for the fiscal year. Democrats had said they hoped Republicans would hear from worried constituents and retreat from their demand that the funding be coupled with language halting the president’s 2012 and 2014 amnesties.
But Mr. King said what he has heard back home supports the Republicans’ position, and Judge Hanen’s ruling will strengthen their resolve even more. He said Mr. Obama’s decision to follow the judge’s ruling was “a milestone” moment that further undercuts Democrats’ objections.
Those preparations include hiring 1,000 employees and contractors to process the illegal immigrant parents’ applications at a facility in Crystal City, Virginia. Congress has not appropriated money for the amnesty, but the administration argues that the agency running the program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is funded by fees from applications, which means it has its own money.
The agency had been counting on fees from the amnesty applications to help recoup money already spent, but with those applications on hold it’s unclear what the administration will do.
Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest legal group, asked Congress last week to order an investigation into those preparations, arguing that if Congress hasn’t approved money for the amnesties the administration could be violating another federal law that specifically prohibits spending when Capitol Hill hasn’t given its OK.