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L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti rounds up allies for Obama on immigration

Mayor Eric Garcetti says L.A. will push hard to preserve White House immigration action

Leaders of several major cities plan to intervene in court to defend President Obama's effort to shield millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday.

Twenty-five states with Republican-led governments have asked a federal court in Texas to overturn Obama's executive action, and the cities, most of which have Democratic mayors, will try to oppose that move, Garcetti announced at a forum in Washington.

The limits on deportation will greatly benefit major cities, he argued. “If we can’t move forward with this, you are assigning us a worse economic condition, a worse criminal justice system, less safe streets and less prosperity for everyone,” Garcetti said at the event, organized by the National Journal.

“Many of our cities are larger than those states that are suing," he added. "We have a lot of cities that stepped up and want to be a part of it.”

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, a conservative appointee of President George W. Bush, is expected to rule soon on the constitutionality of Obama’s plan. The states that have sued argue that the executive action exceeded Obama's authority.

Garcetti said he is bracing for an unfavorable initial decision. “They may win the first round, judging from what I have heard about the court this is in,” Garcetti said. “But it will be appealed.”

Beyond the court fight, the mayor insisted he is optimistic about eventual action in Congress on immigration, despite the conventional wisdom that Republicans in the House will not act on the issue.

In an interview, he expressed confidence that House leaders will change course over the next several months and embrace a policy that would enact some of Obama's goals. He dismissed as political theater GOP plans to force a showdown next month by tying changes in Obama's immigration action to passage of a crucial budget bill.

“It’s kind of like when you get a new car and they say for the first few days, don’t drive it above 50 miles per hour,” Garcetti said. “I think what you have is a brand new car in this brand new Congress. Some folks who have licenses for the first time are taking it out for a spin."

"There is a settling-in that naturally happens," he said. "I don’t take the first shots across the bow as a declaration of war.”

Garcetti pointed to the many Republicans with whom he says he has some degree of common ground on immigration issues, including House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

“A lot of people are saying the window has closed, but that is not the sense I get talking to Republican leaders,” Garcetti said. “Many famous peace treaties have been signed in moments of great darkness.”

A spokesperson for McCarthy offered a less optimistic view. “Rep. McCarthy’s position on our broken immigration system has been clear -- a comprehensive bill is the wrong approach and one the House will not take,” he said in a statement. "The president has turned his back on the will of the American people and their elected representatives and has shown by his own actions that he cannot be entrusted to enforce the immigration laws previously enacted by Congress. We must have real, measurable border security measures adopted and enforced.”

In between meetings and speeches, the mayor will be attending the President’s State of the Union address as the guest of a fellow California Democrat, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Are you a Californian trying to make sense of D.C.? Follow me @evanhalper on Twitter.

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