Two children pleaded with Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker on Sunday to drop his opposition to a program that could save their father, an undocumented immigrant, from being deported. But he had no hope to give them.
Leslie and Luis Flores asked the Wisconsin governor why he supported a lawsuit brought by 26 states, including his own, to block President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents policy, or DAPA.
"Why are you blocking DAPA?" Leslie, 13, asked Walker at a campaign stop in Plainfield, Iowa. The candidate smiled, gave a thumbs-up and darted off.
Later, after he'd toured the farm, Walker met up with the family again.
"Answer my question. Why are you trying to break my family apart?" Leslie called out, wiping away tears.
Walker talked with the two children and their father, Jose Flores, for several minutes. The meeting was polite but ultimately unsatisfying.
Luis, 7, chocked back tears as he asked, "Do you want me to come home and come home from school and my dad to get deported?"
The two encounters were captured on video and posted by Voces de la Frontera, a Wisconsin-based immigrant rights group. This was not Leslie's first effort to help her family. In 2013, she traveled to Washington to push Congress to act on immigration reform -- it did not.
DAPA was set forth in Obama's executive actions on immigration this past November. The program would allow the undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizen children and legal permanent residents to remain on a temporary basis if they met certain criteria, including residency in the U.S. for at least five years.
But DAPA was put on hold this February after 26 states went to court to argue the program is unconstitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, heard arguments in the case on July 10. Unless the injunction is reversed, the federal government cannot take applications for DAPA.
Walker told the Flores family that as governor, he can’t block a federal policy but that in any case, he is opposed to DAPA.
“For us, we are a nation of laws. Unfortunately, last year the president after saying 22 times that he couldn’t make the law up himself -- he said wasn’t the emperor, he said that he was the president of the United States and that he can’t change the law -- he decided to change the law, even though the courts have now said that he cannot do that,” Walker said. Then, he added, “My point is that you have to follow the law, follow the process.”
Jose Flores asked if Walker would consider removing Wisconsin from the lawsuit.
“I support the lawsuit because I think that the president can’t be above the law,” Walker said.
Walker has become tougher on immigration during his run for president. In 2013, he endorsed a path to citizenship, and in 2006, while he was the Milwaukee County executive, he twice signed resolutions that backed programs granting legal status to undocumented immigrants. More recently, however, he has been aligning his views with those of other candidates in the crowded GOP primary field.
"No amnesty," Walker said in an April interview with Glenn Beck. "If someone wants to be a citizen, they have to go back to their country of origin and get in line behind everybody else who’s waiting."