Dems see Obama immigration fight as a boost for 2016

Dems see Obama immigration fight as a boost for 2016
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President Obama’s executive actions on immigration could be headed for a court battle just in time for the general election — something Democrats hope will boost their party with Hispanics.
 
The Obama administration’s swift decision to ask the Supreme Court to lift an injunction on the actions sets up a possible ruling in late June, weeks before the party conventions.
 
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“Immigration is already front and center,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the liberal immigrant rights group America’s Voice. “Just imagine if a Supreme Court decision on whether 5 million undocumented immigrants get work permits is handed down right in the middle of the general election.” 
 
A federal appeals court on Monday sided with 26 states led by Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who argued that Obama had exceeded his constitutional power with his actions.
 
Democrats believe that drawing attention to the case will help their party at a time when Republican presidential candidates are running hard against the idea of granting legal status, or “amnesty,” to undocumented workers.
 
Many on the left see parallels to the 2012 election. In June of that year, Obama acted unilaterally to offer quasi-legal status and work authorization to young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. 
 
That program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allowed Obama to draw a stark contrast with Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who said he would veto legislation that would help the same group of immigrants, known as the DREAM Act. 
 
“That was the largest mobilizing issue for Latinos in 2012 and President Obama really benefitted from that,” said Matt Barreto, a UCLA professor and co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions. “In some ways, we may see a replay of that no matter how the court decides.” 
 
Romney eventually took an ambiguous stance on DACA, saying he would not continue the program but also not strip special status from those who already had it. 
 
But his comments during the GOP primary appeared to hurt him with Hispanics, as 71 percent of Hispanic voters backed Obama. A record 11.2 million Latino voters also participated in that election, according to the Pew Research Center.
 
Barreto, who consults for Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAre Democrats trying to pin the blame for their own sins on Russia? Trump: Calling Warren Pocahontas ‘an insult to Pocahontas’ GOP vows to use Pelosi against Democrats in 2018 MORE, believes the debate surrounding the current court case could have a major impact in presidential battleground states, such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida, which have large Latino voting populations. 
 
Each of those states also has competitive Senate races.
 
“It will really elevate that issue to the top of the agenda, Spanish-language media will cover it extensively because it affects so many people,” Barreto said. “All of the candidates are going to have to tell voters where they stand.”
 
Obama’s core 2014 executive action is more controversial, however. 
 
It applies to the parents of U.S. citizen children and legal residents, allowing those eligible to receive deportation reprieves and work permits if they meet certain conditions. 
 
Unlike the 2012 actions, which applied to people who were children when they entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas, the 2014 actions apply to adults.
 
Obama in 2014 also expanded the existing DACA program, which has provided relief to more than 680,000 people. 
 
Opponents have taken issue with the scope of the orders. Together, they could make around 5 million people eligible for deportation relief, more than 40 percent of the entire U.S. undocumented population.
 
Many conservatives believe the case presents upsides for Republicans, arguing it could mobilize base voters angry over Obama’s aggressive use of executive power. That's especially true if the justices uphold the program. 
 
“It could help the Republicans in the short-term by energizing turnout,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors lower immigration levels. “It gives them one more reason for them to come out against Hillary.”
 
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called Monday’s ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals “a win for the checks and balances established by the Constitution.”
 
“The president simply can’t singly rewrite the country’s immigration laws,” he said in a statement. 
 
Yet polls show Latino voters overwhelmingly support Obama’s executive actions on immigration, and that they blame the GOP for the failure of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have offered a pathway to citizenship to millions living illegally in the U.S. 
 
Those sentiments cut across ethnic lines — Cubans and Puerto Ricans, who are not directly affected by immigration laws, increasingly see eye to eye with Mexican-Americans and Central Americans. 
 
Clinton and her top opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), both slammed the Fifth Circuit's decision. Clinton expressed hope for a favorable court ruling “so that the millions who are affected can stop living in fear of their families being broken apart.”
 
Every Republican presidential candidate opposes Obama’s executive actions, and at least one top-tier candidate recently toughened his stance. 
 
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioElection hacking fears turn heat on Homeland Security Will Republicans stand up to the NRA's insurrection rhetoric? The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Fla.) said last week the president’s initial DACA program would have to end even if Congress fails to pass an immigration reform bill to replace it. 
 
Previously, Rubio had suggested he would not immediately terminate the program and expressed hope it would end with a new immigration law.
 
Democrats say the next GOP nominee will suffer the same fate as Romney if they take that type of approach.
 
“The Republican Party has neglected the lessons of the 2012 elections, and have plunged over a cliff following Donald Trump, Ben Carson and others,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a floor speech Tuesday. 
 
Some Republicans are mindful of how the party’s brand could suffer even more damage if the rhetoric becomes too overheated.
 
During Tuesday night’s GOP primary debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush chided Trump for repeating his pledge to deport illegal immigrants en masse if he becomes president. 
 
“Even having this conversation sends a powerful signal — they’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this,” Bush said. That’s the problem with this. We have to win the presidency.”