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2008 Law Is At The Center Of Immigration Dispute


Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. As children from Central America continue to arrive across the Southern U.S. border there are many questions over the law.

INSKEEP: There's a 2008 law that some people want to change. It assures due process for minors crossing the border and some officials want immigration officials to have more flexibility to speed up the processing of those children.

MONTAGNE: And there's the issue of changing the law through comprehensive immigration reform, which President Obama insists is the real solution.

INSKEEP: And there's enforcement of the law which Republicans argue they cannot trust the President to do. That's why they say they cannot pass an immigration bill.

MONTAGNE: It's also why House Republicans are suing the president, as some in the party are even calling for his impeachment. To discuss all this we're joined, as we are most Mondays by Cokie Roberts. Good Morning.


MONTAGNE: Well, let's start, Cokie, with the border. The President asked Congress for nearly $4 billion and when he did he characterize it as a stopgap measure to deal with an immediate humanitarian crisis. Will Congress give him that money?

ROBERTS: It's not clear at all that they will. He sent the Secretary of Health and Human Services to talk to the governors who were meeting but so far a lot of Republicans are saying no, led by Texas Governor Rick Perry. Others saying that they have - first have to secure the border, even though these kids are not sneaking in Renee. They are coming and presenting themselves and as you said some Republicans want to change the law that allows that. But - and they keep saying that these kids have got to go back. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma says give them all first class tickets, that's still cheaper than the president's plan. But meanwhile you're getting some pushback from some Democrats including Martin O'Malley, the governor of Maryland who's exploring a presidential run. Plus human rights groups, the Catholic bishops are saying hold on, don't send these kids back to a horrible situation. So, at the moment it's unclear where it's all headed.

MONTAGNE: Well, what does seem clear is what's happening with an immigration overhaul, which is actually nothing. Is this situation likely to change any of that?

ROBERTS: Probably not. Republicans know that as a national party they're shooting themselves in the foot by not doing immigration reform but they don't see how to do it. Given the way congressional district lines are drawn and the strong strong feeling in the Republican base against doing it. So, they're using as an excuse, as you said earlier, the argument that they don't trust the president to enforce the law, given the fact that he's allowed the so-called dreamers, those kids who came to this country before 2007, to stay in the country. They also point to the administration's decision not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and most important the changes he's made in the implementation of the healthcare law.

MONTAGNE: And it's that last one that's the focus of a House Republican lawsuit against the president. Is that going anywhere?

ROBERTS: Well, it's going to court at some point and some legal scholars think the House might actually have a case here. That's the reason they chose healthcare as the one to complain about because they think that's the best chance to give them standing. It's ironic of course because they don't want the president to implement the health care law but they're suing him over not doing it. Look president's and Congress have been having these fights from the beginning of - from Thomas Jefferson refused to enforce the Alien and Sedition Acts and pardoned everybody who had been convicted under them and Obama's reaction is to say, so sue me, I'm doing my job. But look what's going on here is politics, is Speaker Boehner trying to stave off the cries of some members of his party for impeaching the president by going after the president in court.

MONTAGNE: And is that likely to work though? Will the talk of impeachment give way so House Republicans can focus on the lawsuit?

ROBERTS: Well, it certainly doesn't seem to be stopping Sarah Palin, who's calling for impeachment. But there was a poll published in the Wall Street Journal last week saying more Americans are tired of hearing from her than any other past politician. And Speaker Boehner's probably chief among them. The same day by the way that a Wall Street Journal editorialized against impeachment, no serious Republican officeholders are talking about it but the Democrats want to keep the conversation going 'cause they think it makes the Republicans look extreme.

MONTAGNE: Well, Cokie, thank you very much. Commentator Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
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