WASHINGTON - Whether millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States could apply for temporary legal status will depend on the ruling of a federal appeals court in New Orleans, which will hear the case about an executive order by President Barack Obama on Friday.
The day before the court hearing, immigration rights groups held a town hall meeting in Fairfax, Virginia, near the nation’s capital, pushing for comprehensive immigration reforms.
Democratic Congressman Don Beyer spoke in support of the president’s executive order.
“The Republicans beat him up on the floor of Congress, saying it was illegal and it violated the Constitution, not realizing the only reason he did executive action is because Congress refuses to act, to do its job,” Beyer said.
President Obama issued the executive order last November, deferring deportation of nearly five million undocumented immigrants who met certain standards, but the court has blocked its implementation because Texas and 25 other states brought a lawsuit against it.
Now the appeals court will hear the case.
Undocumented immigrants such as Lenka Mendoza, whose daughter was born in the U.S., felt hopeful she could get legal status to stay in the U.S. and her daughter would not feel afraid anymore.
“She is scared because she thinks the police will detain me and deport me,” Mendoza said. “So it’s important for my kids.”
Immigration reform has been a divisive issue in the U.S. Although both sides of the debate agree the immigration system needs to be fixed, Congress has failed to pass a comprehensive immigration law.
Congressman Beyer said Republicans are to blame.
“Republicans unfortunately are the barriers right now to do the right thing, to get them on board,” he said. “Republicans are the majority, so it’s not easy, but important things are never easy.”
House speaker John Boehner, however, said the issue of illegal immigration and what to do about it have become the biggest political "football" he has ever seen.
“If we want to resolve issues like we see develop in San Francisco, and elsewhere, we need to get serious about enforcing the laws we have,” he said.
A woman was shot and killed last week in San Francisco by a Mexican man in the country illegally after five deportations. Her death has fueled once again the debate on immigration enforcement and policy reform.
“If we don’t like the laws we have, then we need Congress to sit down to resolve this issue,” Boehner said at a press conference on Thursday. “I’d like to get it resolved sooner rather later,” he said.
Boehner said he hopes the House would take action this year.