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Cesar Vargas, Co-Director of the DREAM Action Coalition, says eleven Presidents including both Bushes took similar action on immigration before Obama

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. A federal judge in Texas ordered a temporary halt of President Obama’s executive action on immigration, some of which were set to go into effect on Wednesday. The judge, Andrew Hennan, ordered the ruling in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states. As a result, the government will have to halt its implementation of programs that would offer work permits and deportation protection to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. Now joining us from New York City to discuss this is Cesar Vargas. Mr. Vargas is codirector of the DREAM Action Coalition. He cofounded the organization after realizing that despite his qualifications to practice law in New York, he could not do so, because his status as an illegal immigrant. Thank you so much for joining us today, Cesar. CESAR VARGAS, CODIRECTOR, DREAM ACTION COALITION: Thank you so much for having me. PERIES: So, Cesar, what are the arguments that the judge in this case from Texas, Andrew Hennan, is using to make his case for the halt on behalf of Texas and the 25 other states? VARGAS: You know, the arguments are pretty colorful arguments that the plaintiffs have made here, and especially Texas has. The judge pretty much found that a lot of the fact that there is undocumented population in Texas in various states causes injury, including the police resources, financial resources of a state, and as well as a little bit more intricate legal arguments saying that the president didn’t go through regular process, namely through Congress or through the federal administrative procedure act in a way that the president should have gone through Congress, should have gone to his formal proceeding versus just him saying, hey, I’m going to do this. But the reality is that there’s solid, solid legal precedent from 11 presidents before President Obama that have taken similar action, similar way, and similar process. So the arguments really don’t hold water, and they become more like a political theater, which–what we’re seeing now in Congress. And, unfortunately, this is what the arguments of the judge did adopt. PERIES: So tell us what are some of the other presidents who set precedent in terms of these types of executive actions on immigration? VARGAS: Well, it’s actually one of the–really interesting on that point. Just a few minutes ago, a few hours ago, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush went on Facebook and started–pretty much took a swipe at the president’s immigration actions. But interesting: his father, George H. W. Bush, and his brother also took similar action. For example, in 1989, president George H. W. Bush took action to keep children to be united with their family. So–and this goes back to President Eisenhower taking similar action. President Ronald Reagan took similar action. So this is something–and most recently the Supreme Court ruled in the U.S. v. Arizona that the federal government and the president has broad authority on immigration and that states cannot challenge that. So we’re seeing this challenge by 26 Republican states challenging something that the Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of the administration. PERIES: Right. And that amnesty that Ronald Reagan had offered at that time was very popular and quite famous when a Republican had done so. So what’s the problem with President Obama doing it? VARGAS: It’s–right now there’s this political infighting not just between Democrats and Republicans; it’s also between Republicans themselves. And that is really spilling over to having an actual debate on immigration policy. We have a system that hasn’t been really modernized since–as you mentioned, since Ronald Reagan, 1986. So we’re operating on a system that’s over 30 years old, and you have the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party fighting with the more moderate. And in a sense, reasonable members, like Speaker Boehner, Paul Ryan, and a few other members, who are saying, listen, we need get our work done, because we’re not going to win the White House and we’re already alienating many not just Latino voters, but independent voters, and some Republicans as well. PERIES: So, Cesar, explain to us the impact this is going to actually have on immigrant families, as is what President Obama authorized in terms of executive order was very limited and only affected very few of illegal immigrants in the country allowing them to have a status in this country that would only normalize their life here. VARGAS: No, the impact is day and night. For myself, when the president first took action in 2012 with DACA, the Deferred Action for child program, you know, for me it brought, after being here since I was five years old and being here almost 25 years in the U.S., it meant like I was in my home, I was being recognized by my country, having a driver’s license, having Social Security, being able to pay taxes. You know, some people are not excited about paying taxes, but for me I was excited about paying taxes. And just recently, my sister, who didn’t qualify initially in 2012, was able to qualify with this new announcement, because it eliminated the age cap. And I was already helping her collecting her paperwork. I was helping her ready for her to take her driver’s exam. You know, she was going to be able to go back to school. And with this decision, it’s dreams crushed. And I mentioned it’s temporarily, but the impact is dreams, is families being separated. That really makes an impact. And for me, I’m going to continue to fight for my family. I’m going to continue to fight for so many families, American families that are really going through this system. And we’re seeing U.S. citizen children who are seeing their parents being deported and separated. We are seeing veteran families who are seeing their loved ones being separated because of their immigration status. PERIES: Cesar, how long do you think this halt is going to be in effect? How long will this case take? VARGAS: So the actual merits of the case of whether the president exceeded his authority, that’s going to extend probably all the way to the Supreme Court, and that will take a few months, maybe six months, seven months. Who knows? But the most immediate urgency here is to lift the injunction that this federal district Texas judge said is–that’s right now the Department of Justice is going to do an emergency appeal to the appellate court, the Fifth Circuit, in Louisiana to say the district judge was incorrect and the Court of Appeals needs to lift the injunction so the programs can go into place. So that could take, hopefully, in maybe two weeks, three weeks max, and we hope that that can–the appeals court can resolve that right away. PERIES: This is really undue torture on people, really, who have been in limbo for so long and awaiting to be reunited with their families and have a normal life in this country. Cesar, I want to continue our discussion in our next segment doing a bit more of the analysis on the case. So I hope you can join me for that. VARGAS: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me again. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Cesar Vargas is a nationally recognized leader and innovator at the forefront of the groundbreaking DREAM movement. Cesar brings a unique and varied government and political background that extends to the three branches of our government including experience in Congress, Kings County's District Attorney Office, and the New York State Supreme Court. However, the opportunity to work with exceptional political and community activists is what brings real vigor to his experience. Cesar graduated with honors from the philosophy program at St. Francis College. A recent law school graduate, Cesar Vargas, quickly learned that his commitment to serve his community reaches far beyond the courtroom as he fights for others like him to be admitted as licensed lawyers. From New York to Washington D.C, he has actively been involved in the fight for the DREAM Act and immigration reform. In fact, he was one of the leading advocate during the 2010 lame duck session to push for the DREAM Act. Cesar was also the original drafter and advocate of a novel piece of legislation in New York State.