WASHINGTON -- As President Barack Obama's immigration policies face threats from Congress and the courts, he met Wednesday with advocates to assure them he isn't going to bend on deportation relief for undocumented parents and those who came to the U.S. as children.
During a private meeting at the White House, Obama said he won't accept efforts by Republicans to tie restrictions on his policies to funding for the Department of Homeland Security, according to advocates who attended. Funding is set to run out on Feb. 27 unless a deal can be reached.
"He sort of shook his head and was amazed that the Republicans were on the verge of shutting down the Department of Homeland Security when it's clear there's no way they can win the battle in the Congress," Frank Sharry, executive director of the group America's Voice, said after attending the meeting. Sharry added that the administration was "very worried that the Republicans are on this collision course with a shutdown."
Representatives from a number of other pro-immigration reform groups were also in attendance, including the National Council of La Raza, Voto Latino, the Service Employees International Union and United We Dream.
Republicans are aiming to stop programs the president announced in November to allow more undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and work, aimed at parents and those who came to the U.S. as children. A new program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, would give three-year work permits to parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Obama also is aiming to broaden eligibility for the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, that does the same for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
The programs hit a snag last week when a federal judge temporarily halted them from moving forward as he considers a lawsuit brought against the government by 26 states. The Obama administration appealed the decision, and sought a stay that would let it continue DAPA and the expanded version of DACA.
Republicans' efforts to take down the programs come at the risk of shutting down the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate plans to vote on a bill to stop DAPA and the expanded DACA, along with a separate bill to fund DHS. But House Republicans may be unwilling to accept any funding bill for DHS that does not also block those programs.
As the Congressional and legal battles play out, Obama encouraged advocates to continue to get out the word about DAPA and the broader eligibility for DACA. The president also told advocates at the meeting that he wants to make the public more aware of his other executive actions on immigration. He is likely to touch on those policies at a town hall in Miami later Wednesday.
"There are parts of the executive action that will continue to be implemented ... [Obama was] making it clear that those who qualify for the administration's relief are not going to be deported," Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said after the meeting. "Although they're not going to get the piece of paper that will allow them to work and get out of the shadows, they're not going to be deported."