The Skinny

President Obama says he'll take exec action on immigration after House of Reps fails to act on comprehensive reform

Border Breakthrough

President Obama says he'll take exec action on immigration after House of Reps fails to act on comprehensive reform

President Barack Obama brought together two of the GOP's favorite topics this week when he assailed House Speaker John Boehner for not acting on immigration reform and vowed to use whatever executive authority he had to push through administrative actions.

Obama cited the new influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America as the latest humanitarian crisis on the border—more than 1,000 refugee children are being housed in a Nogales detention center—and said that he'd prefer a legislative solution, but after Boehner told him that immigration reform was dead in the House for the remainder of the year, he felt compelled to act.

Obama said he asked administration officials "to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own, within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can. If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours. I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay."

Exactly what those legal actions will be remains to seen, but Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) praised Obama for changing course after facing "stonewalling" from House Republicans.

"There are many options available to the president, from extending deferred action to all deserving family members to allowing for prosecutorial discretion on deportations," Grijalva said. "Sending more enforcement to our borders will do nothing for the men, women and children who are caught up in our broken system. Nor will it provide a humanitarian solution to the crisis of child refugees arriving from Central America."

Congressman Ron Barber (D-CD2) didn't weigh in on the merits of the executive action, but he did welcome $2 billion in assistance to deal with the unaccompanied minors who are flooding across the border.

Barber said the current crisis demonstrated why the federal government needed to start reimbursing state and local governments for the additional burden that illegal immigration creates.

"The safety and security of Southern Arizona communities must be given the highest priority as we implement plans to stop the flow of unaccompanied children and others coming to the United States illegally," Barber said in a prepared statement. "As I've said since day one, we must do this by putting more Border Patrol and other federal law enforcement personnel at the border. Our Border Patrol agents must no longer be tasked with providing childcare to unaccompanied immigrant children. They must be returned to their job of securing the border."

Republican Martha McSally, who narrowly lost to Barber in 2012 and wants a rematch this year, said that it was "great to see that President Obama finally realizes what we here in Southern Arizona know all too well—that the border is not secure. Even though we have men and women serving in the Border Patrol who are doing the best they can, President Obama's Department of Homeland Security is directing a failed strategy, and it has been in his power and job description to devise a successful strategy for over six years, but he has failed."

In an earlier interview with the Weekly, McSally was critical of Obama's use of executive authority to allow DREAM Act kids to remain in the United States rather than be deported to their home country. She has called the Senate's immigration-reform bill "flawed" but has generally shied away from taking a position on the future legal status of undocumented immigrants now in the United States, saying that a path to citizenship "should be open to discussion."

U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1) called on House leaders to allow a vote on immigration reform.

Kirkpatrick said that "Arizona families want reform. So do our small-business owners, chambers of commerce, educators, farmers and so many others. A full year ago, the U.S. Senate, including Arizona Senators McCain and Flake, passed tough, fair, comprehensive reform. It's inexcusable—and downright pathetic—that House leaders are stonewalling on an issue so important to our nation."

Three Republicans are vying in the August primary for the chance to challenge Kirkpatrick in November: Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, state Rep. Adam Kwasman and rancher Gary Kiehne.

Tobin criticized Obama for deciding "to circumvent the legislative branch of government and implement an executive order that will do nothing but continue to allow the flow of illegal immigrants across our border.

"I helped pass SB 1070 because Washington wasn't taking this problem seriously, and the president continues to play games," Tobin added in a prepared statement. "Obama clearly believes he's above the law."

Asked for a response to Obama's comments, Kwasman took a shot at Tobin, who had previously told Arizona Capitol Media that he believed that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to remain in the United States as long as they registered with federal authorities and passed a background check.

"The best way to secure this border is by sending our national guard down there and finishing the double-layer fence," said Kwasman. "I've been endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, while Andy Tobin supports the Obama position of legal status for those who are here illegally."

Kwasman favors deporting all undocumented immigrants, including DREAM Act kids unless they are willing to serve in the military.

Kiehne's campaign manager, Chris Baker, did not respond to a request for comment about Obama's comments regarding immigration.

But in earlier interviews, Kiehne has said that he believes that as long as undocumented immigrants can pass a background check, they should be allowed to remain in the United States with a work permit, but not be allowed to pursue citizenship.

Sanity Prevails

City Councilman assembles forum on mental-health resources

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik has organized a talk on local mental-health resources next week with Congressman Ron Barber, state Sen. Dave Bradley, state Rep. Victoria Steele, National Alliance on the Mental Illness Southern Arizona Executive Director Clarke Romans and others.

"I've done several forums when you try to mix the conversation about guns and mental health and just because of the volatility of the whole gun thing, the mental-health component is dwarfed by that part of the conversation," Kozachik said. "So I really want to just explicitly focus on the mental-health component."

The forum begins at 6:30 on Monday, July 7, at Temple Emanu-El, 225 N. Country Club Road. Door open at 5:30 p.m.

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