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Uncertainty dogs Obama’s immigration plans

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Washington: US President Barack Obama faces a tough political and legal battle to drive through an amnesty for five million illegal immigrants, but uncertainty may prove as big a hurdle as Congress or the courts.

Sitting opposite Obama in the Oval Office on February 4, 19-year-old Mexico-born Steven Arteaga felt confident his mother, an illegal immigrant, would soon be able to come out of the shadows.

Arteaga himself received protection from deportation in 2013, part of an Obama initiative to grant amnesty to kids brought over the border.

Last November, Obama issued a presidential order extending the program to a bigger pool of undocumented youngsters, and to the undocumented parents of American citizens.

Because Arteaga's sister was born in the United States, his mother -- who has been living illegally in the United States for almost two decades -- could now come forward.

"It really meant a great deal for me," Arteaga told AFP.

"Growing up, I would always have a fear that either I would come home and she wouldn't be there, or I wouldn't make it home -- that something would happen and one of us might get deported."

When the Department of Homeland Security was to start accepting applications on February 18, he was ready to file his mother's request.

But while Arteaga sat in the White House, highlighting the people behind the policies, Republicans fought a rear-guard action in court and in Congress to overturn the extension.

Two days before the program's start, 26 states -- all but two Republican-governed -- convinced a Texas judge to block Obama's order.

Republicans accused him of effectively ruling by decree.

"The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did," said House Speaker John Boehner.

"So it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed."

Obama's Justice Department has said it will appeal, but the issue is likely to be in limbo before a higher court takes up the case.

"It probably does need to get to the Supreme Court," said Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

"The actions that the president wants to undertake are illegal. This is a pretty fundamental question of separation of powers, it really is a constitutional question."

AFP

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