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Republicans face off with protesters outside Supreme Court

Republicans face off with protesters outside Supreme Court
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Several defiant Republicans faced off against thousands of immigration reform advocates outside the Supreme Court on Monday in a lopsided showdown highlighting both the ferocity and partisanship of the fight over President Obama's executive actions.

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The chanting activists accused the lawmakers of "hateful" efforts to break up immigrant families by opposing Obama's plans to rein in deportations. The Republicans shot back that Obama's supporters are promoting an "anarchic" system that threatens to undermine the very structures and principles that make America attractive to immigrants.

At stake, said Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller Gohmert21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol GOP's Gohmert, Clyde file lawsuit over metal detector fines Wray grilled on FBI's handling of Jan. 6 MORE (R-Texas), is nothing less than the distinction between a country "where the rule of law doesn't matter" and "the shining light on the hill that causes people to want to come here illegally."

"Once we give in to this kind of anarchy and the demands to forget the law … then we're done," Gohmert said, straining to be heard above the jeering crowd at the base of the courthouse steps. "Nobody will want to come here, nobody will want to live here, including those that destroyed the country by demanding that the law not be enforced."

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), among Capitol Hill's most vocal opponents of comprehensive immigration reform, was even more personal. He accused the activists of disparaging the nation's constitutional institutions and elected officials — not least of all himself.

"This behavior out here in the streets of America that we see today that disrespects this court, that disrespects the Congress of the United States, disrespects this congressman who's served on the Constitution subcommittee on the full House Judiciary Committee — are you an example of the America we can expect if this court finds that the president can write law and violate the Constitution at will?" King asked. "If so, we're in for a rough ride in the future."

Neither speech was well-received by the hulking crowd, gathered just a few feet away, which heckled both lawmakers with a chorus of boos and chants that drowned out much of their message. King was hit with chants of "No more hate!" Gohmert faced jeers of "You are an immigrant!"

The showdown came on a gorgeous, cloudless morning in Washington, just moments after the justices had heard oral arguments in a case challenging Obama's 2014 executive actions easing deportation for millions of people living in the country illegally.

Texas and 25 other states contend the programs represent an abuse of executive power that would hit their budgets with costs they can't afford, particularly in issuing driver's licenses. Administration officials say the changes are a simple matter of prioritizing enforcement efforts given budget limitations of their own — a power they think falls well under Obama's jurisdiction.

The court is expected to decide the case in June.

The thousands of activists gathered outside the court represented countless advocacy groups, from labor and human rights organizations to feminists and Buddhist monks. An overwhelming majority of them were there in support of Obama's programs, and their slogans were as diverse as themselves: "Keep Families Together." "Si Se Puede." "Take on Hate." "Don't Deport My Dad." "The Borders Crossed Us."

Yamilex Rustrian, a 20-year-old college student from Los Angeles who's benefiting from Obama's 2012 program deferring deportations, said she made the trek to Washington on behalf of people like her mother, who is undocumented.

"My dad was killed by gang members back in Guatemala," Rustrian said, explaining why, at the age of 7, she and her sister made the journey to the U.S. "My mom was already here and we didn't have any other option than, either stay back home knowing we can be raped or something bad can happen to us … or try to cross the border alone with a complete stranger.

"We just took the chances to try to get here."

Siding with Texas outside the court was a much smaller group — almost all of them older men — who read from the Bible, lead the Pledge of Allegiance and held aloft signs reading "#LetThePeopleDecide" and "#UpToUsToDecide." They also sang the national anthem, though the effort hit a snag when a singer forgot the words.

It was a long day for the Capitol Police. The crowd gathered for the immigration case shut down First Street NE, which separates the Supreme Court from the Capitol. And a separate group of liberal demonstrators, protesting under the banner of Democracy Spring, crowded the Capitol steps, leading to the arrests of roughly 300 people and forcing police to cordon off the usually bustling promenade just east of the Capitol.