The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — President Barack Obama flew to a red state with a growing immigrant population Tuesday to sell his controversial actions delaying deportation for millions of people living illegally in the U.S. as a “net plus” for local economies and communities.

In a small, packed room at a community center here, the president acknowledged the heated debate over his move and argued that cities like Nashville would benefit from the youth, vitality and diversity that immigrants bring.

“Generation after generation, immigrants have been a net plus to our economy and a net plus to our society,” Obama said. “We can’t deport 11 million people, and it would be foolish to try — as well as, I think, wrong for us to try.”

The visit was Obama’s third stop in recent weeks on a campaign to promote his plan to temporarily ease the threat of deportation for nearly 5 million people, about half of the 11 million or so people in the U.S. illegally. The president’s tour has a dual purpose: shoring up his program against critics who’ve dubbed it an abuse of power and ensuring the program gets off the ground without the sort of self-created troubles that dogged last year’s launch of his landmark health care law.

In the series of speeches, the White House is returning to its preferred political strategy of going outside the Washington Beltway to try to rally backing from community leaders.

In Nashville, Obama highlighted Mayor Karl Dean’s efforts to incorporate new arrivals through a new city Office of New Americans, noting he’d created a White House task force with a similar aim.

Obama argued he was pushed to take executive action after months of delay on immigration legislation in Congress. He pitched his plan as a boon to the economy, even in communities far from the immigrant hubs of Los Angeles, New York and border towns. Nashville has seen thousands of immigrants from Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa settle here in recent years, drawn by the region’s relatively strong economy and affordable housing. Foreign-born residents now make up about 12 percent of the population in the Nashville area.

Obama’s trip Tuesday offered a flavor of the impassioned debate he is diving into. As Obama spoke at Casa Azafran, an outreach center that assists immigrants with social services, supporters outside held a large banner reading, “Gracias Obama.” Steps away, protesters waved signs reading, “Defund amnesty” and “Obama is killing America.”

“More than 200,000 Tennesseans remain out of work, but rather than prioritize their plight, the president is putting the interests of those who have broken our laws ahead of them,” U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) said in a statement before Obama’s arrival. “This is wrong, and the president does not have the authority to change our immigration laws without Congress.”

Obama acknowledged his critics, at times casting them as misguided and fearful of change or brushing off their concerns with a few lighthearted jokes.

“They’re pretty sure I’m an illegal immigrant,” Obama said of some critics, adding quickly, “That was a joke.”

While Obama continues his speaking tour, White House officials have fanned out around the country for briefings with mayors, immigrant advocates, community officials and church leaders. Cabinet secretaries, too, will join the road show in the coming weeks, and celebrities are being recruited promote the programs, according to a White House official, who outlined details of the effort on condition of anonymity.

The official said Homeland Security Department officials planned more than 100 public education meetings in December, even before applications become available in the new year. The goal is to spread, in a community often targeted by scams, accurate information about costs, timing and eligibility.

“We are gonna make sure that families, people who are, you know, working and responsible in their communities, are not prioritized for deportation,” Obama said in an interview with Telemundo, according to a transcript. “So the likelihood of their deportation’s gonna be much lower.”

At Casa Azafran, Obama took several questions from the group of mostly advocates and others affiliated with the community center, at times trying to relieve worries that a future president might undo his temporary reprieve and leave those who’ve registered for the program suddenly subject to deportation.

Obama said he was confident that such a move would be so unpopular, no future administration would try it.

If effective, the campaign may also help mobilize much-needed defenders of the most controversial executive action of Obama’s presidency.

More than a dozen states have filed a lawsuit challenging Obama’s actions, and Republicans in Congress are looking for ways to block it before it gets off the ground. Congress was moving toward a deal Tuesday to fund the government through September, but pull the plug in mid-February on funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the nation’s immigration and border patrol agencies.

The White House has criticized the maneuver but has not issued a veto threat.

AFP Photo/Ethan Miller

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump
Youtube Screenshot

Allies of former President Donald Trump have advised members of the Republican Party to cool down their inflammatory rhetoric toward the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation following the execution of a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida on Monday.

Trump supporters, right-wing pundits, and lawmakers have been whipped into a frenzy over what Trump called a "raid" by federal agents in pursuit of classified documents removed from the White House during Trump's departure from office.

Keep reading... Show less

Former President Donald Trump

Youtube Screenshot

On August 20, 2022, Donald Trump will have been gone from the White House for 19 months. But Trump, unlike other former presidents, hasn’t disappeared from the headlines by any means — and on Monday, August 8, the most prominent topic on cable news was the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in South Florida. Countless Republicans, from Fox News hosts to Trump himself, have been furiously railing against the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). And in an article published by Politico on August 11, reporters Kyle Cheney and Meridith McGraw describe the atmosphere of “paranoia” and suspicion that has become even worse in Trumpworld since the search.

“A wave of concern and even paranoia is gripping parts of Trumpworld as federal investigators tighten their grip on the former president and his inner circle,” Cheney and McGraw explain. “In the wake of news that the FBI agents executed a court-authorized search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, Trump’s allies and aides have begun buzzing about a host of potential explanations and worries. Among those being bandied about is that the search was a pretext to fish for other incriminating evidence, that the FBI doctored evidence to support its search warrant — and then planted some incriminating materials and recording devices at Mar-a-Lago for good measure — and even that the timing of the search was meant to be a historical echo of the day President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}