Stop deporting kids and tearing apart families.
That’s the message Tucson’s City Council could send to the federal government next week.
City Councilwoman Regina Romero is seeking a memorial imploring President Obama to suspend deportations of noncriminal immigrants.
She also wants the president to loosen the federal purse strings to help local governments deal with the influx of unaccompanied kids pouring into the country illegally.
With unaccompanied minor children overwhelming local facilities and resources in Nogales, and with immigrants being dropped off at the bus station in Tucson, Romero said the city needs to take a stand.
“All of these things are ever-present in our community,” Romero said. “But now more than ever we’re seeing the results of a broken immigration system and how it’s affecting the local community.”
The memorial is based on a letter sent in January to the president from U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva and other members of Congress asking for a halt to deportations.
Romero said national politics have created the perfect timing for the council to consider passing the memorial next week because the president announced Monday that he would take executive action if Congress failed to pass immigration legislation.
“That gives us that much more impetus for us to take this stand and say, ‘Yes, President Obama, you have it in your hands to do something about it,’” she said. “It’s another pressure point to continue working at. It’s not acceptable to have representatives sitting on a bill that could solve a lot of issues.”
Romero dismissed critics who say the council shouldn’t interject itself into a federal matter.
“The humanitarian crisis happening in Nogales, the people being dropped off at the bus station, and families being torn apart every day by our broken immigration policy — is a local issue. It is a city issue,” she said.
Immigrant-rights activists concurred. They said it’s important the city sets the tone in the immigration debate so Tucson can avoid incidents such as the one in Murrieta, California, where scores of residents on Tuesday blocked buses loaded with immigrant children and families, forcing authorities to reroute them to a facility in San Diego.
“It is absolutely critical that the community is acknowledging the importance of protecting these children and recognizing their humanity,” said Juanita Molina, Border Action Network executive director. “When we see measures like what happened in San Diego, we really want to show there is a different voice and a different way in dealing with this problem.”
If the council passes the memorial on Tuesday, it would join a growing chorus nationally to urge the president to enact bold legislation without Congress’ input.
At a panel on immigration hosted earlier this week by the AFL-CIO, the labor organization’s president, Richard Trumka, told supporters that their next task is to spur Obama to act expansively to curb deportations.
“If we stand together and we act boldly, I believe the president will act boldly, and that bold action, my brothers and sisters, will lift our economy while making our country more just,” Trumka said.
But in a sign of how difficult it will be for Obama to satisfy advocates’ demands, Trumka and other activists have called on the president to provide work permits to everyone who would have been eligible for citizenship under the Senate immigration bill, which would have extended relief to many of the 11.5 million people already in the country illegally.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest wouldn’t say whether Obama is open to the proposal, but he suggested advocates with high hopes are likely to be only partially satisfied.
“Any sort of unilateral executive actions the president can take are not as powerful as reforms that could be put in place through legislation,” Earnest said
And House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans, who already have announced plans to sue Obama over his use of executive actions, served notice that more moves by the president on immigration would only stiffen their opposition.
Obama said Tuesday that his preference on major policy issues would be to work with Congress and pass legislation. “Whatever we do administratively is not going to be sufficient to solve a broken immigration system,” he said.