Atlanta mayor speaks out in support of Obama’s immigration policies

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed forcefully spoke out Friday in support of President Barack Obama’s controversial immigration programs, just four days after a federal judge in Texas sided with Georgia and 25 other states by putting them on hold.

Also Friday, Obama administration officials announced they would seek an emergency court order allowing them to move forward with the programs and issue temporary work permits and deportation deferrals to immigrants living illegally in the U.S.

Reed — who was joined in Atlanta by immigrant rights activists and diplomats from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and several other nations — predicted U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s injunction would be temporary “if the courts follow the law.”

“The Supreme Court and Congress have made it clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our country’s immigration laws,” Reed told the large audience gathered at the Latin American Association. “President Obama’s immigration policies not only strengthen our city’s economy but contribute to our cultural fabric and global competitiveness.”

Obama administration plans appeal

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The White House confirmed Friday that the U.S. Justice Department would also appeal Hanen’s ruling.

“We believe that when you evaluate the legal merits of the argument, that there is a solid legal foundation for the president to take the steps that he announced late last year to reform our broken immigration system,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Hanen issued his injunction late Monday, temporarily placing on hold two key parts of Obama’s plans. One would provide three-year work permits and deportation deferrals to immigrants who don’t have legal status in the U.S. but do have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. The other would expand a similar program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which provides the same relief for immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children. Twenty-six states, led by Texas, sued in Hanen’s court last year, seeking to block the president’s programs. They say the president’s unilateral actions are unconstitutional.

Hanen did not rule on the constitutionality of Obama’s actions Monday. Instead, he said the government had violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires notices about proposed rule changes and opportunities for public comment. His injunction is aimed at keeping Obama’s immigration programs on hold while he hears arguments in the case.

Opponents call president’s order overreach

“This is not the first time the president has attempted to use his executive power unlawfully instead of engaging in the legislative process required in our Constitution,” Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said in a prepared statement Friday. “There is no question that immigration reform is needed, but it cannot be done with unilateral action from the president.”

Reed has consistently defended the Obama administration’s immigration policies. He joined 32 other mayors this year in filing court papers in support of the president’s actions.

Officials from BB&T Bank and Georgia Power also appeared at Friday’s town hall meeting, showing immigrants what paperwork they could provide that would help them apply for the immigration programs. Later, Charles Kuck, a local immigration attorney, fielded questions. There were interpreters on hand to help people who speak Bengali, Haitian Creole, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Oliva Saldivar, a Mexican native living in Georgia without legal status, was among the immigrants who showed up at the town hall meeting. The mother of two children born in the U.S., Saldivar plans to apply for a stay of deportation and a work permit so she can start her own business. She said she has been seeking to calm her children since they learned about the judge’s injunction.

“It is temporary,” she is telling them. “Please don’t be frustrated.”

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