Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, wading into the volatile debate over immigration, blasted state Republican leaders for blocking President Obama’s executive order that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation.
The state’s lawsuit, which stopped Obama’s controversial “deferred action” order earlier this year, has become a major flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans ahead of the 2016 elections.
Appearing on stage with undocumented immigrants at the offices of the Workers Defense Project, Adler called on Gov. Greg Abbott to “meet with the immigrant families in our community and in our state to understand the harm that this lawsuit is causing these families."
“I urge these state leaders to drop opposition to these federal programs because of the benefits they can provide to our local communities,” Adler said. Eckhardt said the lawsuit was being waged by “those who wish to play politics with peoples’ lives” and declared that Travis County’s “economic success was built on immigration.”
Abbott filed the lawsuit against the Obama administration while he was still serving as attorney general, and his successor, Ken Paxton, has continued the fight. Both men are Republicans. Adler and Eckhardt are Democrats.
Abbott’s office did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
Paxton spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer said with the stroke of a pen Obama prompted “some of the most massive changes to national immigration policy in history.”
“Whether you agree with the policy or not, every single American should be concerned with the president’s use of executive action to accomplish what he couldn’t in Congress,” Meyer said. “We need to leave lawmaking to lawmakers and preserve the separation of powers our nation was founded on — that’s what our lawsuit is about.”
Obama's immigration policy, announced last November and known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, would have allowed some five million undocumented immigrants nationwide to apply for a work permit if they passed background checks, steered clear of trouble and paid back taxes and fines.
After Texas sued to block implementation of the plan, some 25 states joined in the lawsuit, which is on appeal and could wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Julián Aguilar contributed to this report.