Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke led a host of fellow Democratic elected officials from the borough to voice support for President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration–and to blast Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s reaction to the move.
Mr. Jeffries and Ms. Clarke–who serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus Task Force on Immigration Reform–showered praise upon Mr. Obama’s controversial decision to unilaterally create a program protecting immigrants who have resided in the country for more than five years from deportation. Mr. Jeffries, noting the districts of the gathered politicians contain large populations of immigrants from the Caribbean, argued that the move was necessary for their constituents because of what he labeled as inaction on the part of the House of Representatives’ GOP majority.
“This is a great day for the United States of America, it’s a great day for New York City, a great day for Brooklyn, a great day for the Caribbean community. President Obama’s executive order is bold, lawful and compassionate. It is a welcome step for dealing with our nation’s broken immigration system,” Mr. Jeffries said. “It’s a system that House Republicans have refused to address year after year after year. That’s why it was appropriate for the President to act.”
It was a theme Mr. Jeffries, a member of the virtually powerless Democratic minority, returned to repeatedly. He insisted that, despite Republican claims to the contrary, the order was well within the purview of the president’s office–and blamed Mr. Boehner and his colleagues for making it necessary.
“John Boehner and the House Republicans refuse to act, even though, had they brought the bill to the floor of the House of Representatives, the votes exist to pass comprehensive immigration reform into law. But they’ve engaged in legislative malpractice, they’ve neglected the issue, and that is what has brought us to this moment,” he said. “It is a substantial step in the right direction. We still got some work to do.”
Ms. Clarke, whose mother was the first Caribbean-born woman to serve in the City Council, hit the House majority even harder on the issue.
“Our president has said ‘enough is enough.’ Enough with the delays,” she said. “It is our hope that after they finish with all their whining and crying, all of their threats, that they will see the wisdom of making this a reality.”
Mr. Jeffries and Ms. Clarke both refused to speculate whether Mr. Obama should issue further executive orders on immigration or other contentious issues in the future. Mr. Jeffries noted that Mr. Obama has issued far fewer such orders than his immediate predecessors, and attacked Mr. Boehner for saying in his response that the president’s move has precluded the possibility of bipartisan action on the issue.
“The threats are very irresponsible,” he said.
In response, Mr. Boehner’s office pointed that Mr. Obama had himself said in the past that an executive order like the one he announced yesterday would be the act of a king, not a president.
“We always enjoy the opportunity to remind the president and his supporters of the glaring inconsistencies and contradictions of his past statements and actions,” spokesman Kevin Smith told the Observer.
The members of Congress were joined by a cavalcade of local officials, including State Senator Kevin Parker, Assemblyman Walter Mosley, Assemblyman N. Nick Perry, Councilman Mathieu Eugene, Assemblywoman-elect Rodneyse Bichotte, Assemblywoman-elect Jo Anne Simon, Assemblywoman-elect Latrice Monique Walker and Working Families Party co-founder Bertha Lewis.