Tag Archives: executive action

Walker hints at lawsuit over Obama’s executive actions on guns

President Barack Obama’s plan to tighten restrictions on gun sales brought praise from Democrats in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation and accusations of executive overreaching from Gov. Scott Walker.

The president, on Jan. 5, detailed his plans to curb gun violence in America and offered his reasoning for taking executive action — Congress’ inability or unwillingness to act.

Central to the president’s 10-point plan is new federal guidance on who is in the business of selling firearms and who must acquire a license to sell guns. The president wants to close a loophole that allows dealers and buyers to avoid background checks in the retailing of guns online and at shows and flea markets.

The president also wants federal agencies to research technologies to reduce accidental shootings, increase funding for mental health care, implement procedures to better track lost or stolen guns and hire more federal examiners to conduct background checks.

“This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country,” said Obama, who wiped away tears as he spoke at the White House on Jan. 5. But the executive actions could “save lives and spare families the pain of these extraordinary losses.”

Walker, who has signed legislation weakening Wisconsin’s gun restrictions, suggested the state likely will sue over Obama’s executive actions. The Republican governor said he asked the attorney general to review the president’s plan and accused Obama of “disregarding the constitutional principles of separation of powers and exceeding his authority as chief executive.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said the courts or voters would undo the president’s actions. “No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment,” Ryan said. “We will conduct vigilant oversight. His executive order will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Ultimately, everything the president has done can be overturned by a Republican president, which is another reason we must win in November.”

From Wisconsin’s Democratic leaders, there was praise for the presidential action.

State Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison said executive action is “desperately needed to stem the tidal wave of gun violence and deaths.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, welcomed “this practical and measured response to the ongoing inaction in the House and Senate that has compromised the safety of communities across the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said Congress should build upon the president’s actions.

“Instead of Congress holding moments of silence on the House floor, we need moments of action to reduce the senseless gun violence that is rampant in our communities,” said Pocan, who supports the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, which would expand the background check program.

Obama announces executive action to reduce gun violence Jan. 5: The fact sheet

On Jan. 5, in the East Room of the White House, President Barack Obama announced new executive actions to reduce gun violence.

Here’s the fact sheet provided on Jan. 4 by the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary:

Gun violence has taken a heartbreaking toll on too many communities across the country. Over the past decade in America, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence — and millions more have been the victim of assaults, robberies, and other crimes involving a gun. Many of these crimes were committed by people who never should have been able to purchase a gun in the first place.

Over the same period, hundreds of thousands of other people in our communities committed suicide with a gun and nearly half a million people suffered other gun injuries. Hundreds of law enforcement officers have been shot to death protecting their communities. And too many children are killed or injured by firearms every year, often by accident. The vast majority of Americans — including the vast majority of gun owners — believe we must take sensible steps to address these horrible tragedies. 

The president and vice president are committed to using every tool at the administration’s disposal to reduce gun violence. Some of the gaps in our country’s gun laws can only be fixed through legislation, which is why the President continues to call on Congress to pass the kind of commonsense gun safety reforms supported by a majority of the American people.

And while Congress has repeatedly failed to take action and pass laws that would expand background checks and reduce gun violence, today, building on the significant steps that have already been taken over the past several years, the administration is announcing a series of commonsense executive actions designed to:

1. Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making clear that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks.

ATF is finalizing a rule to require background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust, corporation, or other legal entity.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has sent a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient. The envisioned improvements include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun. The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.

2. Make our communities safer from gun violence.

The Attorney General convened a call with U.S. Attorneys around the country to direct federal prosecutors to continue to focus on smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws.

The President’s FY2017 budget will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws.
ATF has established an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking and is dedicating $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.

ATF is finalizing a rule to ensure that dealers who ship firearms notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit.

The Attorney General issued a memo encouraging every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.

3. Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.
The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care.

The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.

The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing

States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.

4. Shape the future of gun safety technology.

The President has directed the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology.

The President has also directed the departments to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis, and to explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety.
Congress should support the President’s request for resources for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws, as well as a new $500 million investment to address mental health issues.

Because we all must do our part to keep our communities safe, the Administration is also calling on States and local governments to do all they can to keep guns out of the wrong hands and reduce gun violence. It is also calling on private-sector leaders to follow the lead of other businesses that have taken voluntary steps to make it harder for dangerous individuals to get their hands on a gun. In the coming weeks, the Administration will engage with manufacturers, retailers, and other private-sector leaders to explore what more they can do.

New Actions by the Federal Government

Keeping Guns Out of the Wrong Hands Through Background Checks

The most important thing we can do to prevent gun violence is to make sure those who would commit violent acts cannot get a firearm in the first place. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which was created by Congress to prevent guns from being sold to prohibited individuals, is a critical tool in achieving that goal. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the background check system has prevented more than 2 million guns from getting into the wrong hands. We know that making the system more efficient, and ensuring that it has all appropriate records about prohibited purchasers, will help enhance public safety. Today, the Administration is announcing the following executive actions to ensure that all gun dealers are licensed and run background checks, and to strengthen the background check system itself:

Clarify that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over th Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks.

Background checks have been shown to keep guns out of the wrong hands, but too many gun sales—particularly online and at gun shows—occur without basic background checks. Today, the Administration took action to ensure that anyone who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms is licensed and conducts background checks on their customers. Consistent with court rulings on this issue, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has clarified the following principles:

A person can be engaged in the business of dealing in firearms regardless of the location in which firearm transactions are conducted. For example, a person can be engaged in the business of dealing in firearms even if the person only conducts firearm transactions at gun shows or through the Internet. Those engaged in the business of dealing in firearms who utilize the Internet or other technologies must obtain a license, just as a dealer whose business is run out of a traditional brick-and-mortar store.Quantity and frequency of sales are relevant indicators. There is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement. But it is important to note that even a few transactions, when combined with other evidence, can be sufficient to establish that a person is “engaged in the business.” For example, courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two firearms were sold or when only one or two transactions took place, when other factors also were present.

There are criminal penalties for failing to comply with these requirements. A person who willfully engages in the business of dealing in firearms without the required license is subject to criminal prosecution and can be sentenced up to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000. Dealers are also subject to penalties for failing to conduct background checks before completing a sale.

Require background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust or corporation.

The National Firearms Act imposes restrictions on sales of some of the most dangerous weapons, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. But because of outdated regulations, individuals have been able to avoid the background check requirement by applying to acquire these firearms and other items through trusts, corporations, and other legal entities. In fact, the number of these applications has increased significantly over the years—from fewer than 900 applications in the year 2000 to more than 90,000 applications in 2014. ATF is finalizing a rule that makes clear that people will no longer be able to avoid background checks by buying NFA guns and other items through a trust or corporation.
Ensure States are providing records to the background check system, and work cooperatively with jurisdictions to improve reporting. Congress has prohibited specific categories of people from buying guns—from convicted felons to users of illegal drugs to individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. In the wake of the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, Congress also created incentives for States to make as many relevant records as possible accessible to NICS. Over the past three years, States have increased the number of records they make accessible by nearly 70 percent. To further encourage this reporting, the Attorney General has written a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified for mental health reasons, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence. The Administration will begin a new dialogue with States to ensure the background check system is as robust as possible, which is a public safety imperative.

Make the background check system more efficient and effective.

In 2015, NICS received more than 22.2 million background check requests, an average of more than 63,000 per day. By law, a gun dealer can complete a sale to a customer if the background check comes back clean or has taken more than three days to complete. But features of the current system, which was built in the 1990s, are outdated. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will take the following steps to ensure NICS operates more efficiently and effectively to keep guns out of the wrong hands:

FBI will hire more than 230 additional NICS examiners and other staff members to assist with processing mandatory background checks. This new hiring will begin immediately and increase the existing workforce by 50 percent. This will reduce the strain on the NICS system and improve its ability to identify dangerous people who are prohibited from buying a gun before the transfer of a firearm is completed.

FBI has partnered with the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) to modernize NICS. Although NICS has been routinely upgraded since its launch in 1998, the FBI is committed to making the system more efficient and effective, so that as many background checks as possible are fully processed within the three-day period before a dealer can legally sell a gun even if a background check is not complete. The improvements envisioned by FBI and USDS include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to improve overall response time and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to purchase a firearm.

Making Our Communities Safer from Gun Violence

In order to improve public safety, we need to do more to ensure smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws and make sure that criminals and other prohibited persons cannot get their hands on lost or stolen weapons. The Administration is therefore taking the following actions:
Ensure smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws.

In a call earlier today, the Attorney General discussed the importance of today’s announcements and directed the Nation’s 93 U.S. Attorneys across the country to continue to focus their resources—as they have for the past several years under the Department’s Smart on Crime initiative—on the most impactful cases, including those targeting violent offenders, illegal firearms traffickers, and dangerous individuals who bypass the background check system to acquire weapons illegally. During the call, the Attorney General also emphasized ongoing initiatives to assist communities in combating violent crime, including ATF’s efforts to target the “worst of the worst” gun crimes. These efforts will also complement the following actions announced today:

The President’s budget for FY2017 will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators who can help enforce our gun laws, including the measures announced today. Strategic and impactful enforcement will help take violent criminals off the street, deter other unlawful activity, and prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands
ATF is dedicating $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN). The NIBIN database includes ballistic evidence that can be used by analysts and investigators to link violent crimes across jurisdictions and to track down shooters who prey on our communities. In February 2016, ATF is standing up the National NIBIN Correlation and Training Center—which will ultimately provide NIBIN matching services at one national location, rather than requiring local police departments to do that work themselves. The Center will provide consistent and capable correlation services, making connections between ballistic crime scene evidence and crime guns locally, regionally, and nationally. These enhancements will support ATF’s crime gun intelligence and enforcement efforts, particularly in communities most affected by violent crime.
ATF has established an Internet Investigations Center (IIC) staffed with federal agents, legal counsel, and investigators to track illegal online firearms trafficking and to provide actionable intelligence to agents in the field. The IIC has already identified a number of significant traffickers operating over the Internet. This work has led to prosecutions against individuals or groups using the “dark net” to traffic guns to criminals or attempting to buy firearms illegally online.
Ensure that dealers notify law enforcement about the theft or loss of their guns. Under current law, federal firearms dealers and other licensees must report when a gun from their inventory has been lost or stolen. The regulations are ambiguous, however, about who has this responsibility when a gun is lost or stolen in transit. Many lost and stolen guns end up being used in crimes. Over the past five years, an average of 1,333 guns recovered in criminal investigations each year were traced back to a licensee that claimed it never received the gun even though it was never reported lost or stolen either. Today, ATF issued a final rule clarifying that the licensee shipping a gun is responsible for notifying law enforcement upon discovery that it was lost or stolen in transit.

Issue a memo directing every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.

In the event of an emergency, victims of domestic violence should call 911 or otherwise contact state or local law enforcement officials, who have a broader range of options for responding to these crimes. To provide an additional resource for state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community groups focused on domestic violence, the Attorney General is issuing a memo directing U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country to engage in renewed efforts to coordinate with these groups to help combat domestic violence and to prevent prohibited persons from obtaining firearms.
Increase Mental Health Treatment and Reporting to the Background Check System
The Administration is committed to improving care for Americans experiencing mental health issues. In the last seven years, our country has made extraordinary progress in expanding mental health coverage for millions of Americans. This includes the Affordable Care Act’s end to insurance company discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, required coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services in the individual and small group markets, and an expansion of mental health and substance use disorder parity policies, all of which are estimated to help more than 60 million Americans. About 13.5 million more Americans have gained Medicaid coverage since October 2013, significantly improving access to mental health care. And thanks to more than $100 million in funding from the Affordable Care Act, community health centers have expanded behavioral health services for nearly 900,000 people nationwide over the past two years. We must continue to remove the stigma around mental illness and its treatment—and make sure that these individuals and their families know they are not alone. While individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, incidents of violence continue to highlight a crisis in America’s mental health system. In addition to helping people get the treatment they need, we must make sure we keep guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited by law from having them. Today, the Administration is announcing the following steps to help achieve these goals:

Dedicate significant new resources to increase access to mental health care.

Despite our recent significant gains, less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. To address this, the Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to help engage individuals with serious mental illness in care, improve access to care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce, and ensure that behavioral health care systems work for everyone. This effort would increase access to mental health services to protect the health of children and communities, prevent suicide, and promote mental health as a top priority.

Include information from the Social Security Administration in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Current law prohibits individuals from buying a gun if, because of a mental health issue, they are either a danger to themselves or others or are unable to manage their own affairs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to ensure that appropriate information in its records is reported to NICS. The reporting that SSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice, is expected to require will cover appropriate records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits, and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent. The rulemaking will also provide a mechanism for people to seek relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.
Remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information to the background check system. 

Although States generally report criminal history information to NICS, many continue to report little information about individuals who are prohibited by Federal law from possessing or receiving a gun for specific mental health reasons. Some State officials raised concerns about whether such reporting would be precluded by the Privacy Rule issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Today, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule expressly permitting certain HIPAA covered entities to provide to the NICS limited demographic and other necessary information about these individuals.

Shaping the Future of Gun Safety Technology

Tens of thousands of people are injured or killed by firearms every year—in many cases by guns that were sold legally but then stolen, misused, or discharged accidentally. Developing and promoting technology that would help prevent these tragedies is an urgent priority. America has done this in many other areas—from making cars safer to improving the tablets and phones we use every day. We know that researchers and engineers are already exploring ideas for improving gun safety and the tracing of lost or stolen guns. Millions of dollars have already been invested to support research into concepts that range from fingerprint scanners to radio-frequency identification to microstamping technology.

As the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country, the Federal Government has a unique opportunity to advance this research and ensure that smart gun technology becomes a reality—and it is possible to do so in a way that makes the public safer and is consistent with the Second Amendment. Today, the President is taking action to further this work in the following way:

Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to take two important steps to promote smart gun technology.

Increase research and development efforts. The Presidential Memorandum directs the departments to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of firearms, and improve the tracing of lost or stolen guns. Within 90 days, these agencies must prepare a report outlining a research-and-development strategy designed to expedite the real-world deployment of such technology for use in practice.

Promote the use and acquisition of new technology. The Presidential Memorandum also directs the departments to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis, and to explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety. In connection with these efforts, the departments will consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.

Sanders details ‘Family First’ plan for immigration reform

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders this week introduced a plan to reform the nation’s immigration system. The U.S. senator’s plan puts families first, focuses on common sense reforms to build the middle class and embraces our nation’s diversity, according to a news release from his campaign.

“As we gather with our loved ones to give thanks, we should reflect on the fact that not all families will be so lucky,” Sanders said. “Millions of families are torn apart by our broken immigration policies. We cannot forget about the aspiring Americans who continue to live in the shadows. As the son of an immigrant, I can tell you that their story – my story, your story, our story – is the story of America: the story of hardworking families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for their kids We have an obligation to enact policies that unite families, not tear them apart.”

If elected, Sanders would:

• Dismantle inhumane deportation programs and private detention centers.

• Offer humane treatment and asylum to victims of domestic violence and minors fleeing from dangerous circumstances in Latin America.

• End policies that discriminate against women and ensure that mothers and wives who come into the United States with their families have the same right to work as their partners.

• Pave the way for a swift legislative path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

• Close loopholes that allow federal agencies to use racial and ethnic profiling at the border.

• Ensure our border remains secure and protects local communities.

• Make it easier for immigrants to access the judicial system.

• Increase oversight of key Department of Homeland Security agencies to guard against waste, fraud and abuse.

Sanders pledged to make immigration a top priority of his administration, even if Congress refuses to act. He would take executive action to allow all undocumented people who have been in the United States for at least five years to stay in the country without fear of being deported.

Under Sanders’ plan, close to 9 million aspiring Americans would be able to apply to stay in the United States.

“As president, I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship and is grounded in civil, humane and economic rights. But let me be clear: I will not stand idly by waiting around for a dysfunctional Congress to act. Instead, during the first 100 days of my administration I will take extensive action to accomplish what Congress has failed to do and to build upon President Obama’s executive orders.”

Appeals court: Hold remains on Obama’s executive actions on immigration

Immigrant rights advocates pressed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to withdraw from a lawsuit after a federal appeals court refused to lift a hold against the president’s executive actions on immigration.

“Unfortunately, we expected this delay, but we know that it is a delay, not a defeat,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin. “Scott Walker and the other anti-immigrant politicians behind this lawsuit chose where to file very carefully, where they knew they would get anti-immigrant judges who would help them delay the relief our communities have won. We are confident that the courts will ultimately uphold these programs, as they have every executive action any other president has ever taken on immigration. We are continuing to help people prepare to apply for these programs when they are implemented, and we are continuing to organize to stop police and ICE collaboration and close deportation cases.”

Obama announced an executive action in November seeking to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The order also would extend deportation protections to some parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Although Obama argued lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes on his own, Republicans blasted the plan as an executive overreach. Twenty-six states — including Wisconsin — sued to stop it, and a federal judge based in Texas issued a preliminary injunction against it in February.

The administration is appealing that injunction and had asked a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to let the program proceed pending an argument on the merits, tentatively set for July.

But, in refusing to stay the Texas judge’s injunction, 5th Circuit judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod said that the federal government lawyers are unlikely to succeed on the merits of the appeal. Judge Stephen Higginson disagreed in a lengthy dissent.

Immigrant advocates decried the continued roadblock. And, White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said the two-judge majority in the ruling “chose to misinterpret the facts and the law.”

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sided with the states and, from his court in Brownsville, Texas, issued a temporary injunction on Feb. 16 to block the plan from taking effect while the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

In denying a stay, Smith and Elrod rejected the government’s argument that it has such broad discretion to defer legal action against immigrants absent judicial review. The Obama policy, the ruling said, goes beyond simple non-enforcement. “It is the affirmative act of conferring `lawful presence’ on a class of unlawfully present aliens,” Smith wrote.

Higginson noted congressional inaction on the issue in his dissent and said the administration was acting within its authority.

Smith and Walker were nominated to the court by Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; Higginson, by Obama.

The White House said its appeal of the preliminary injunction will proceed on an expedited basis in the 5th Circuit while the Justice Department reviews Tuesday’s opinion and contemplates other possible steps.

“This decision is a victory for those committed to preserving the rule of law in America,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the decision will result in confusion and fear in immigrant communities. But she predicted eventual victory in the courts.

The first of Obama’s orders — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — was set to take effect Feb. 18. The other major part, extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, had been scheduled to begin May 19.

Hanen issued his injunction believing that neither action had taken effect. But the Justice Department later told Hanen that more than 108,000 people had already received three-year reprieves from deportation as well as work permits. Hanen said the federal government had been “misleading,” but he declined to sanction the government’s attorneys. Earlier this month, the U.S. government told Hanen it had mistakenly awarded three-year work permits to another 2,000 people.

Along with Texas and Wisconsin, the states seeking to block Obama’s action are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

Madison joins in amicus brief backing Obama’s executive actions on immigration

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin this week announced that the city joined 73 cities and counties in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals urging immediate implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The brief, coordinated through the Cities United for Immigration Action coalition, demonstrates robust support from the country’s largest cities — as well as its suburbs and rural areas — for the president’s reforms. Signers said the reforms will provide temporary relief from deportation to immigrants with longstanding ties to the United States who pass a background check and meet other criteria.

The cities and counties — representing 43 million people across the country — argue that the district court judge who temporarily blocked implementation of the programs failed to consider the significant harms to America’s local governments caused by this delay.

“I proudly stand with my fellow mayors throughout the country in support of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that promote family stability, economic growth and community cohesiveness,” Soglin said in a news release. “Every president since President Eisenhower has used executive authority to provide temporary immigration relief and in fact, there have been 37 instances of presidents using executive authority since 1956. That action has come under both Republican and Democratic administrations so this is not, and should not be, a partisan issue. This is a human rights issue.” 

As part of Cities United for Immigration Action, more than 70 cities and counties, the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors argue that the national public interest is served clearly and overwhelmingly by implementing immigration relief by executive action without delay.

The brief also argues that the judge’s decision to block executive action with a preliminary injunction is bad for the economy, hurts families, threatens law enforcement priorities and will stall needed changes to the federal government’s immigration policies. 

The brief argues that executive action will benefit cities and counties by providing work authorization to millions, increasing local tax revenue, stimulating local economies, facilitating the civic engagement of immigrants, keeping families together and improving public safety by strengthening our neighborhoods and communities.

In addition, the brief argues that delay in implementation of the president’s executive action has significant costs for local economies and immigrant families. The delay in implementation has forced mixed-status families — a number which is estimated to be in the millions — to continue to live in ongoing fear of deportation and separation, a situation that has profound emotional, educational and health impacts on children. 

Flashback 2014: Executive action required for immigration reform

On an icy day last February some 100 people assembled outside the ICE office in Milwaukee to protest racial profiling at courthouses in Milwaukee, Racine, Dane, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Kenosha, Walworth, Winnebago, Washington and Rock counties.

“Courts should be a safe place for people complying with or seeking protection from the legal system,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera.

Days before the demonstration, 22 Democratic members of the Wisconsin Legislature called on U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials to stop harassing people in the state’s halls of justice.

The demonstrators and lawmakers also urged an end to the deportations that separate children from their parents and grandparents.

Those calls were echoed throughout the year, as Republicans in the House refused to act on a comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate and yet also failed to advance any legislation of their own.

Meanwhile, with deportations on his watch approaching 2 million, the president’s progressive coalition was splintering and immigrant rights activists began referring to him as “Deporter in Chief.” Still, he resisted pleas for executive action.

Not until after the midterm elections did Barack Obama announce executive action to protect some immigrant workers from deportation, make work permits eligible for about 4.1 million people who are in the United States illegally but whose children are lawful permanent residents and loosen eligibility requirements for a waiver program for people seeking green cards.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the president had poisoned the well. He wasn’t alone in working off the talking points memo issued by his party.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who is from Wisconsin, characterized Obama’s action as granting amnesty. “If he believed that his actions were urgent and that he had the constitutional authority all along, why did he wait six years into his presidency to act?” Priebus said. “If he believed he was doing the will of the American people and acting in the best interests of American workers and those waiting in line to become Americans, why did he wait until after this last election?”

On the Democratic side, there were those who quietly agreed the party would have done better on Nov. 4 had the president taken action on immigration earlier in the year.

And, among the activists who repeatedly called for reform, there was praise but caution.

“I have been in this movement for many years, and though I am one of those who will not benefit, I am not defeated,” said Guadalupe Romero, a Voces de la Frontera member who has lived in Milwaukee since 1990. “I will continue to fight for myself and all the people excluded from this relief.”

On Dec. 3, a coalition of 17 states, including Wisconsin, sued the Obama administration over the executive action.

The next day, the House voted mostly along party lines for the Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act, a bill that says the executive branch lacks the authority to stop certain deportations. The legislation was DOA in the Senate.

House moves toward deal to fund government

Sidestepping immigration hardliners, House Republican leaders are moving to make a deal with Democrats to pass a spending bill that would keep the government running past next week.

The emerging strategy follows legislation passed on Dec. 4 by the House declaring President Barack Obama’s executive actions to curb deportations “null and void.” That legislation wasn’t enough for some conservatives, who complained that the only way to stop Obama’s actions on immigration would be to forbid them in legislation that must pass if the government is to stay open.

Republican leaders are opposed to that course of action, fearing a government shutdown that they don’t want, and plan to rely on Democratic votes to pass a bill to keep the government going.

The spending bill would pay for most government agencies for a year, while extending the Homeland Security Department only for a few months. Homeland Security includes the immigration agencies that would carry out Obama’s executive actions, so the approach would allow Republicans to revisit them early next year, once they have control of the Senate and a bigger majority in the House.

“We think this is the most practical way to fight the president’s action,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

Several conservative lawmakers sounded resigned Thursday to being ignored by Boehner, who, with a bigger majority next year, will have more room to maneuver around balky tea party lawmakers.

“My assumption is that the fix is in and they don’t need us,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. “They’re going to vote this with a large number of Democrats.”

The omnibus spending bill would cover the approximately one-third of the budget dedicated to day-to-day operations of Cabinet agencies. There’s slightly more than $1 trillion for the Pentagon and domestic agencies plus more than $70 billion to tackle overseas military operations in Afghanistan and to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Obama appeared likely to get most of his $6.2 billion request for fighting Ebola at home and in Africa but not his requests for infrastructure money.

Most of the money issues are largely worked out, House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said. But many so-called policy riders, on environmental regulations, long-haul trucker hours, labor relations and more, are unresolved.

GOP Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, hopes to achieve the framework of a deal with Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, by the end of Friday and release it Monday.

“Until we see the bill, there’s no way you can say you support it or not,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

The bill on deportations, which passed 219-197, put the House on record against Obama’s actions granting work permits to more than 4 million immigrants in the country illegally. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., was among those who wanted more direct action to block what the president is doing.

“Having said we’re going to do everything we can to stop this – and then to do nothing to stop it – really hurts,” he said.

Wisconsin among 17 states suing Obama over immigration action

Wisconsin is among the 17 states in a coalition suing over President Barack Obama’s recently announcedexecutive actions on immigration.

On Dec. 3, the coalition of states, led by Texas’ attorney general, filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of Texas.

Under Obama’s order, announced Nov. 20, protection from deportation and the right to work will be extended to an estimated 4.1 million parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and to hundreds of thousands more young people.

The suit argues that Obama’s action tramples portions of the U.S. Constitution and raises three objections: that Obama violated the “Take Care Clause” of the U.S. Constitution that limits the scope of presidential power; that the federal government violated rulemaking procedures; and that the order will “exacerbate the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, which will affect increased state investment in law enforcement, health care and education.”

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, in a statement, said he joined the lawsuit on behalf of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to challenge the president’s “Deferred Action Policy related to immigration and the treatment, under law, of illegal aliens.”

Van Hollen stated, “It is clear that the president has exceeded his authority and that this important matter should be reviewed by the courts.”

Walker, in a statement, said, “The immigration system is broken, but this is an issue that should be addressed through collaborative federal action, not unilateral action by the president. President Obama’s actions represent a violation of his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws and exceed the limits of his administrative powers.”

Responding, Democratic state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa said, “Gov. Walker signing onto this lawsuit to block executive action by the president on immigration reform, while disappointing, is not surprising. This strikes me as another conservative bandwagon initiative that the governor is jumping on to improve his national credentials and profile amongst the far-right Republican base he will try to court as he runs for president.”

She continued, “President Obama is using his executive power to set enforcement priorities with available resources, while deferring action on individuals who have fallen through the cracks of our broken immigration system but present no immediate threat to our country’s national security. The governor needs to look at the human element of this executive action and realize it is the most responsible and humane thing to do in the absence of congressional action on immigration.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. House voted this week for a bill aimed at undoing Obama’s executive action, but the move was mostly symbolic, as it was DOA in the Senate.

Potential 2016 presidential candidate and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who leaves office in January, also spoke out against the executive order on Dec. 3, saying it could trigger a new flood of people coming across the Texas-Mexico border. Perry and Abbott also have said the order will promote a culture of lawlessness.

In addition to Wisconsin and Texas, the anti-immigrant coalition includes Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Obama to announce ‘comprehensive’ action on immigration

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says President Barack Obama’s executive immigration actions will be comprehensive and include border security measures.

Johnson says the administration came up with a variety of changes to the immigration system that he believes are not only legal but needed in light of inaction by Congress on immigration.

Johnson spoke briefly about the president’s plan during an event at the National Press Club this week. He didn’t provide any details about Obama’s plan, saying he didn’t want to get out ahead of the president’s announcement, which is due today.

Johnson also says more clarity is needed for internal directives outlining how immigration authorities decide which immigrants living in the country illegally should be deported. He didn’t provide details.

Obama by executive action could create world’s largest ocean preserve

President Barack Obama on June 17 announced executive actions aimed at creating the world’s largest ocean preserve.

The announcement came as Secretary of State John Kerry announced a global call to protect the oceans and the State Department hosted an international conference on sustainable fisheries, marine pollution and ocean acidification.

The president, in a video message to conference participants, said, “We’ve already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations. So let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world.”

The executive actions, which do not require congressional approval, include:

• Deciding how to expand protections near the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean, an area that contains pristine tropical marine environments. The tropical coral reefs and associated marine ecosystems are among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.

• Directing federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program aimed at deterring illegal fishing, addressing seafood fraud and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace by increasing traceability and transparency. Black market fishing constitutes up to 20 percent of the wild marine fish caught each year around the world, and drains up to $23 billion from legitimate fishing enterprises.

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Expanding these protections will provide a safe haven for coral gardens, seamounts, and the rich waters that support hundreds of species of fish, sea turtles, giant clams, dolphins, whales and sharks, conserving them for future generations. This represents a commitment to the kind of bold action needed to restore the failing health of our ocean, on which we all depend and continues the bipartisan tradition of ocean protection.”