Immigrants Concerned By GOP Efforts To Curtail Obama Executive Action

House Of Representatives Has Passed Bill That Would De-Fund Obama's Order

University student Elizabeth Perez says President Obama's immigration order would help her family. Photo: Chuck Quirmbach/WPR News.

At Candelas Hall in Milwaukee on the night of Nov. 20, audio speakers hooked up to a television set were turned up so everyone in the Latino-oriented club could hear President Barack Obama’s speech outlining an executive action he would take regarding immigration.

Obama’s executive order, it turned out, would make considerable changes to the nation’s immigration system. It most notably featured a provision that would protect more than 4 million more undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Immigration advocates generally welcomed the president’s words, and nearly two months later, many Latinos still back the Obama order. However, many immigrants to Wisconsin are now raising concerns about recent Republican efforts to halt the plan, and some of them say ongoing developments in Congress and the courts could hurt the GOP in next year’s elections.

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‘Not Trying To Pick A Fight’

At the Milwaukee offices of the advocacy group Voces De La Frontera, volunteer and local university student Elizabeth Perez said the immigration order would help her family. Perez was born in Mexico and was brought to California at age 4 when her parents came to the U.S. illegally. Perez came out of the shadows a couple years ago when the president deferred deportation of some children of undocumented residents. Now, Perez said she’d like her mother and father to feel safe in the U.S. as well.

“Just driving my siblings to school, or going to work — something they have to do to support our family, just like any other family has to support their kids,” said Perez. “They could do it without fear.”

But in recent weeks, Perez has started to worry about criticism of the president’s immigration order. On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would eliminate funding for the Obama plan. South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy derided the president’s order.

“He declared unilaterally that almost 5 million undocumented aliens will receive deferred action under some sort of new-fangled definition of prosecutorial discretion,” said Gowdy.

It’s unclear if the Senate will go along with the de-funding, and even if the measure passes a White House veto is considered likely. Nevertheless, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said he’ll still push for the bill .

“I’m not trying to pick a fight — that fight was picked. And all I’m trying to do is that as much as possible, we defend Congress’s role,” said Johnson.

Taking Action In Court

The de-funding bill is not the only attack on the immigration plan: There was also a court action in Texas on Thursday aimed at blocking the executive order. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is part of the lawsuit against the president.

“Several weeks after the election, he apparently decided to take action because he was frustrated. Well, in this country you don’t get to just move because you’re frustrated in Congress, no matter what party’s in charge,” said Walker.

Walker claims not to be worried about Latino voters being upset with him should he run for president, contending Latinos also back candidates who expand school vouchers and help the economy.

However, Milwaukee Democratic state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, who has the largest Latino constituency in Wisconsin, said Congress could have passed immigration reform years ago. She further said that it still ought to act, as there are another 5 million undocumented residents not covered by the president’s order.

Zamarripa said more young Latinos will soon be voters and remember the conservative attack on the executive action.

“We need to have elected officials who are responding to the concerns of this growing young electorate, and I hope we’ll have a real influence on the presidential election in 2016,” said Zamarripa.

Details of President Obama’s immigration plan are expected soon, even as Latinos wait to see what happens in the courts and Congress.