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McMorris Rodgers: Obama’s immigration actions defy his presidential power

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Tuesday called a Texas federal judge’s ruling halting President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration further proof a legislative fix is needed for the country’s “broken” system.

“Here you have a ruling by the third branch of government, the judicial branch of government, that is suggesting that the president was beyond his authority,” McMorris Rodgers said, referring to Monday night’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen. Hanen put on hold Obama’s actions protecting more undocumented immigrants from deportation while a coalition of 26 states challenges the legality of those measures.

But a group of young activists hand-delivering a call for action to the House Republican Conference chairwoman’s downtown office during her February swing through Spokane was undeterred.

“The injunction’s temporary,” said Moses Chege, a beneficiary of the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that would be expanded under Obama’s executive actions, and a first-year student at Whitworth University. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before they turned 16 to avoid deportation for two years.

The White House and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson both quickly denounced Hanen’s decision. The administration pointed to a letter signed by lawyers and law professors prior to the announcement of the executive actions saying the orders were legal, and Ferguson said in a statement Tuesday the state will continue to assist Obama in fighting the Texas lawsuit.

McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, has been critical of the Obama administration’s use of its executive power. On Tuesday, she said his actions on immigration defied his own understanding of presidential privilege.

“The president had said 21 different times that he didn’t have the authority to take this action by executive order,” she said during a brief interview after an event Tuesday at Washington State University’s Spokane campus. “The core of this debate is where should this decision be made?”

Chege said he felt that argument was a smokescreen. He was joined by about two dozen others from the Washington DREAM Coalition and One America delivering a valentine card to the congresswoman’s downtown Spokane office. It called for Congressional action on immigration. The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, would provide immigrants who arrived in the United States illegally before they turned 16 a pathway to citizenship if they meet certain requirements.

McMorris Rodgers has opposed the DREAM Act.

“They’re attacking us,” Chege said. Several other students with him agreed, saying they only heard empty words and promises from representatives in McMorris Rodgers’ office Tuesday.

Karen Fierro, another recipient of deferred action and a sophomore at Whitworth, said the advocacy groups would continue to hold community forums urging potential recipients to sign up for the new deferred action programs in spite of the ruling Monday.

McMorris Rodgers said she remained committed to passing immigration policies through Congress this session, with a new Republican majority in both chambers.

“I am hopeful that there will be the will for Congress to take action, and I’m anxious for us to start taking those steps,” she said.