WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has the upper hand in the fierce struggle over immigration now taking shape, with a veto pen ready to kill any Republican move to reverse his executive order, Democrats united behind him and GOP congressional leaders desperate to squelch talk of a government shutdown or even impeachment.
With the public favoring changes in the current immigration system, the Republicans' best short-term response appears to be purely rhetorical: that the president is granting amnesty to millions, and exceeding his constitutional authority in the process. Beyond that, their hopes of reversing his policies appear to be either a years-long lawsuit or the 2016 presidential election.
Neither of those is likely to satisfy the tea party adherents in Congress — or the Republican presidential contenders vying for support among party activists who will play an outsized role in early primaries and caucuses just over a year away.
"We alone, I say it openly, we the Senate are waiting in our duty to stop this lawless administration and its unconstitutional amnesty," said one of them, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. In remarks on the Senate floor, according to his office, he was channeling Cicero, the ancient Roman orator.
In a portion of the oration that Cruz did not mention, Cicero referred to a Roman Senate decree calling for a conspirator against the Roman republic "to be put to death this instant."
More than 2,000 years later, impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate stand as the sole established remedy against high crimes and misdemeanors by any president.
House Speaker John Boehner and Senate leader Mitch McConnell want none of that. Nor are they interested in provoking a government shutdown as a way to block spending needed to carry out Obama's order, viewing that as a poor way to embark on a new era of Republican control of Congress.
"We're considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act," said McConnell, who will become majority leader when his party assumes control of the Senate in January.
Led by Boehner, House Republicans on Friday filed a lawsuit accusing Obama of abusing his authority in the implementation of the health care law. Officials say the immigration executive order could be added, but it is unclear how long a final judgment might take or who will be sitting in the Oval Office when it does.
In the interim, Democrats interrupted their squabbling over dispiriting midterm election losses. "The last two weeks haven't been great weeks for us," said New York Rep. Joe Crowley. "The president is about to change that."
The political debate is well underway, although the two parties seem to be appealing to different segments of the electorate. Polls show that the country as a whole and especially Hispanics favor allowing immigrants to remain in the country and work even if here illegally. Conservatives tend to prefer deportation.
"The critics are going to call it amnesty," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., predicted correctly on Thursday in advance of Obama's speech. "But as Sen. Rubio has reminded us, doing nothing — leaving the current system in place — is amnesty."
That was a reference to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential GOP presidential contender who was a leader in passing a bipartisan immigration bill that cleared the Senate, 68-32, in 2013. The measure included a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.
Obama's order didn't go that far. It calls for suspending the threat of deportation for millions, but without the promise of a green card that bestows permanent legal status, much less citizenship.
Republicans also argue that Obama is forfeiting any chance of being able to work with Congress to achieve immigration reform.
Democrats counter that it's been about 17 months since the Senate passed the bipartisan bill.
Since then, opponents in the House have pressured Boehner successfully not to allow it to come to a vote. They also extracted a promise from him not to allow compromise negotiations with the Senate on any other measure that might ease current restrictions on immigrants.
In the hours before Obama acted, Republicans forecast bad outcomes.
"This is ... a major boon to the cartels and other gangs who control Mexico's smuggling networks. And it will almost certainly lead to thousands of people who've committed crimes in this country gaining legal status," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., envisioned a different outcome when asked if a future Republican president might reverse Obama's actions, potentially subjecting millions who step forward now to get work permits to being deported in the future.
"I wish that person luck," Reid said.
EDITOR'S NOTE — David Espo covers Congress and politics for The Associated Press.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A new report asks whether the race and affluence of Adam Lanza's family influenced decisions about how to care for his mental health problems in the years before he committed the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Among the findings in the report, which was released Friday by the state office of Child Advocate, is that Lanza's his parents and educators contributed to his social isolation by accommodating — and not confronting — his difficulties engaging with the world.
The report said recommendations from Yale psychologists that he be medicated and undergo rigorous treatment as a child for anxiety and other conditions were rejected by his mother, who eventually took him out of school.
"Is the community more reluctant to intervene and more likely to provide deference to the parental judgment and decision-making of white, affluent parents than those caregivers who are poor or minority?" the report asks. "Would (Adam Lanza's) caregivers' reluctance to maintain him in school or a treatment program have gone under the radar if he were a child of color?"
Lanza's father is a financial services executive. The son and his mother lived in an exclusive neighborhood in the wealthy bedroom community, 70 miles north of Manhattan.
Research has found that upper-middle-class parents are far more likely to be resistant, defensive and even litigious when presented with treatment options suggested by school service providers, said Suniya Luthar, a professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, who has written extensively on the topic of affluence and mental health.
Deferring to those parents can have grave consequences, allowing nascent problems to escalate to serious and sometimes dangerous levels, she said.
"Even though some of these parents can be very intimidating, schools need to hang tough," she said. "If there is a psychologist, a teacher or a social worker who believes this child is headed for deep trouble, they need to be firm in advocating for the child"
The report concluded that Lanza's autism spectrum disorder and other psychiatric problems did not cause or lead directly to the massacre.
But it found that his "severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems" when combined with a preoccupation with violence, and access to deadly weapons, "proved a recipe for mass murder."
Lanza killed his mother then shot his way into the Newtown school on Dec. 14, 2012, and gunned down 20 children and six educators before committing suicide.
Lanza's obsessions with firearms, death and mass shootings have been documented by police files, and investigators previously concluded the motive for the shootings may never be known.
But in exploring what could have been done differently, the new report honed in on his mother, Nancy Lanza, who backed her son's resistance to medication and from the 10th grade on kept him at home, where he was surrounded by an arsenal of firearms and spent long hours playing violent video games.
"Mrs. Lanza's approach to try and help him was to actually shelter him and protect him and pull him further away from the world, and that in turn turned out to be a very tragic mistake," said Julian Ford, one of the report's authors, at a news conference.
The authors said Lanza's parents tried to obtain help for him in variety of ways, but they did not know which path to take and appeared not to grasp the depth and severity of his disabilities. His parents were divorced, and Lanza had not seen his father for two years. After 2008, his parents did not appear to seek any mental health treatment for him, and there was no sustained input from a mental health provider after 2006, according to the report.
The one provider that seemed to understand the gravity of his condition, the Yale Child Study Center, evaluated him in 2006 and called for rigorous daily therapy and medication for conditions including anxiety. At the time, a Yale psychiatrist warned there was risk to creating a "prosthetic environment which spares him having to encounter other students or to work to overcome his social difficulties," according to the report.
The day after the evaluation, Nancy Lanza told the doctor by email that her son would not agree to any sort of medication and that he had been angered by the doctor's line of questioning. The Yale recommendations went largely unheeded.
Joseph Erardi Jr., who became superintendent of schools for Newtown this year, said the report will have great meaning if "there is one school leader, one district, one mental health provider or one set of parents who reads this work and can prevent such a heinous crime."
He also said wealth and race will never be a factor when deciding how to treat a child in his school system.
"There will never, ever under my watch be a decision made based on race, color, creed, or wealth index....never," he said. "I feel very strongly about this and would never allow this type of influence in any way."
NEW YORK (AP) — A rookie police officer walking with his gun drawn in a darkened stairwell of a crime-ridden public housing complex accidentally shot and killed a man who was leaving the building with his girlfriend, authorities said Friday.
"What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy," Police Commissioner William Bratton said. "The deceased is totally innocent. He just happened to be in the hallway. He was not engaged in any criminal activity."
The shooting of 28-year-old Akai Gurley, who was unarmed, occurred late Thursday night as 26-year-old Officer Peter Liang and another rookie officer patrolled the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn's gritty East New York neighborhood.
The New York Police Department assigns rookie officers as reinforcements in parts of the city that have seen increases in crime. The housing project, where Gurley's girlfriend lives, was the scene of a recent shooting, robberies and assaults.
The officers had descended onto an eighth-floor landing when, 14 steps away, Gurley and his girlfriend had opened a door into the seventh-floor landing after giving up their wait for the elevator so he could head to the lobby. The lights were burned out in the stairwell, leaving it "pitch black" and prompting both officers to use flashlights, Bratton said.
Liang, for reasons unclear, also had his gun drawn, police said. He was about 10 feet from Gurley when, without a word and apparently by accident, he fired a shot, police said. In general, officers have discretion on whether to draw their weapons based on what they are encountering or believe they may encounter, Bratton said.
Gurley's girlfriend, Melissa Butler, told the Daily News she was walking him out of her seventh-floor apartment after braiding his hair when the shooting happened.
"He didn't do nothing wrong," Butler said. "He was just standing there, and they shot him."
She and Gurley made it down two flights of stairs after he was shot, but he collapsed on the fifth-floor landing and lost consciousness, she said.
Gurley was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died, police said.
Gurley's stepfather, Kenneth Palmer, said officials called his relatives in Jacksonville, Florida, to notify them of the death.
"What's hitting me on the head right now is how it happened," Palmer said. "The mood I'm in is pissed off."
Gurley's sister and his daughter's mother, who is not his girlfriend, were to speak Saturday at the Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
Police officials pieced together the details of the shooting from radio reports and interviews with the girlfriend and the second officer, but they said they have not spoken to Liang. The officer must first be interviewed by the district attorney's office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges, before internal affairs officers can question him, a standard policy.
The shooting comes at a time when the NYPD, the nation's biggest police department, is changing how rookie officers are used fresh out of the academy to give them more training and time with more senior officers. It also reinforced what some critics say are long-ignored maintenance problems in public housing, including poor lighting.
Public housing employees walked around the buildings Friday with a shopping cart full of light strips and fixed all the lights on the staircase.
The president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, said the complex is among the most dangerous in the city and the stairwells are the most dangerous places in public housing.
State Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron, whose district includes the complex, expressed doubt the shooting was accidental.
"This young man should be alive today," he said. "This is ridiculous."
The shooting recalled a 2004 incident in which 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury was shot dead by a startled officer on a Brooklyn rooftop of a housing complex. His family got a $2 million settlement with the city.
Associated Press writers Karen Matthews and Jonathan Lemire and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.
DENVER (AP) — A single mother who vanished from western Colorado more than seven years ago led a double life as a paid escort with many unsavory clients, investigators say.
Among them was Lester Ralph Jones, 63, who was one of the last people to call Paige Birgfeld before her 8-year-old daughter reported her missing in June 2007.
On Friday, Jones was arrested charges of murder, kidnapping and arson. Authorities allege he killed Birgfeld, dumped her body and torched her car.
Police dogs found Jones' scent in Birgfeld's charred, red Ford Focus and said he was unable to explain a gas can near his desk at the RV dealership where he worked, according to a 46-page arrest affidavit detailing how Jones quickly emerged as the main suspect.
No attorney for Jones was listed in court records, but he denied any involvement when police interviewed him early in their investigation.
Detectives also questioned — and ruled out — at least eight other men, including Birgfeld's former husband and several other clients. Witnesses said one of those clients had an "arsenal of guns and a pile of cocaine."
Birgfeld was twice divorced and living with her three children in Grand Junction, about 200 miles west of Denver. Friends knew her as a devoted mother who sold kitchen wares and did other jobs.
"My daughter was vivacious, knock-down good-looking, had a terrific smile and was always optimistic," her father, Frank Birgfeld, told The Associated Press on Friday. "She just seemed to think somehow, some way she would manage through it all."
Her father said he was unaware of her double life until after she died and police learned she had worked for years as an escort, running a prostitution business called Models Inc. A former husband said Birgfeld was the lone employee, going by the name "Carrie," but convinced customers a variety of women worked there.
Her apparent double life attracted widespread attention to the mystery of her disappearance, including a "48 Hours" segment called "The Secret Life of Paige Birgfeld" in 2008.
Her skeletal remains were found in 2012, in a dry creek bed in a neighboring county.
When leads began to dissipate, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's cold-case team was assigned the case.
Jones denied knowing anything about Birgfeld's disappearance when police questioned him in 2007 and denied ever using her service.
But a fellow escort told investigators Jones called Birgfeld for an appointment but canceled when he realized she was the ex-wife of a man with whom he worked at the local fire department. A review of his phone records showed they had communicated several times, including in the days leading up to her disappearance, the affidavit says.
Inside Jones' tool box, police found the handwritten phone numbers of other escorts and their bra sizes, along with a condom, Viagra and a pair of men's wigs.
They also found a food scale made by The Pampered Chef, whose kitchen products Birgfeld sold.
Police say the pages leading up to the day she disappeared were torn out of a day planner they found in her car.
When Birgfeld was kidnapped, police said she might have tried to leave a trail of clues for investigators to find her, as they found business cards from The Pampered Chef and Models Inc. scattered about the highway.
Officials still don't know how Birgfeld died.
Mesa County Sheriff-elect Matt Lewis told reporters that investigators continued interviewing Birgfeld's associates and studying evidence over the past seven years until they had enough to arrest Jones and be sure no one else was involved.
"We have never forgotten about Paige," Lewis said.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — After a three-day onslaught that dumped a historic 7 feet of snow on the Buffalo area and killed at least 12 people, the sun came out, but so did predictions of flooding caused by rain and temperatures of up to 60 degrees.
Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said there might be trouble with drainage as snow and the uncollected autumn leaves underneath blocked catch basins.
"The biggest flood threat would be on Monday when temperatures are at their warmest," he said. "There could be general urban flooding."
The water tied up in the snowpack — roughly the equivalent of six inches of rain — could be released over the course of two days, said deputy Erie County executive Richard Tobe.
"If it was released as rain it would be a monumental storm," Tobe said.
He said flooding would likely affect mostly basements and creeks.
The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Sunday to Wednesday.
"We are preparing now for more flooding than we've seen in a long, long time," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Cuomo said the state was sending in pumps, boats, helicopters and high-axle vehicles that can operate in 4 to 5 feet of water.
"If we're lucky we won't need any of it," he said. "But prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
The snow remained a huge challenge. Officials were still urging people to put off nonessential travel so snow removal efforts could progress. Cuomo reopened a 132-mile stretch of the state Thruway that had been closed since Tuesday, but several exit ramps remained closed along the westernmost 75 miles.
"Assume if you get on headed west you can't get off until Pennsylvania," the governor said. He said roads remain "very dangerous."
Local travel bans were beginning to be lifted Friday so delivery trucks can bring in food and other essentials to depleted supermarkets, the governor said.
Two more deaths were announced. A 50-year-old man was found Friday morning in his car, which was buried in snow in Cheektowaga, police said. The cause of death wasn't immediately known.
One elderly resident of a nursing home, also in Cheektowaga, died after it was evacuated amid concerns of a roof collapse, a spokeswoman for the home said.
More than 30 major roof collapses, most involving farm and flat-roof buildings, were reported overnight, officials said Friday, and rain forecast to arrive with warmer temperatures could add to the strain.
Friday's improved weather inspired some homeowners to climb onto roofs to shovel off the snow and reduce the danger of collapse.
"Five hours yesterday and that's just the beginning," John Normile of Lake View said as he and his daughter and her boyfriend cleared up to 6 feet of snow from the roof of his ranch-style home.
"We're getting really concerned about the weight of it," Normile said. "We've got to do it before the rain comes."
Associated Press Writers Chris Carola in Albany and Jim Fitzgerald in White Plains contributed to this report.
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Activists, authorities and the family of Michael Brown called for calm as a grand jury drew closer to an announcement in the Ferguson police shooting. But it was unclear whether the panel was still at work or when it would render a decision.
Earlier Friday, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch told reporters that the grand jury weighing whether to indict officer Darren Wilson was still in session. Five hours later, Ed Magee declined to say whether the panel was still meeting.
The time, date and place for a news conference announcing the decision has not been decided, Magee said.
Wilson, 28, reportedly told the grand jury that he feared for his life on Aug. 9 as Brown, who was 6-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds, came at him. Some witnesses said Brown was trying to surrender and had his hands up.
The shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer led to protests, some of which turned violent. Demonstrations have continued for more than three months, though the number of protesters has dwindled and violence has become uncommon.
There were signs of rising tension.
Protesters were arrested Thursday outside Ferguson police headquarters for the second night in a row after around 40 demonstrators blocked South Florissant Road. One of the three people arrested pushed an officer and was hit with pepper spray, according to St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman.
Calls for peace and restraint emanated from several quarters, including President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and civil-rights leaders and business owners.
The most emotional appeal came from Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr.
"Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer," Brown said in the video released by the group STL Forward. "No matter what the grand jury decides, I don't want my son's death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone."
Holder issued a general reminder to police to prepare for demonstrations and to "minimize needless confrontation."
His video message did not explicitly mention Ferguson, but it did reference demonstrations over the past few months that have "sought to bring attention to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices."
"I know from firsthand experience that demonstrations like these have the potential to spark a sustained and positive national dialogue, to provide momentum to a necessary conversation and to bring about critical reform," Holder said in the video.
"But history has also shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to nonaggression and nonviolence," he added.
Eddie Hassaun of the civil rights group Justice Disciples urged protesters not to be confrontational and for police to follow suit.
"We're looking for the action on the other side to be equally as committed to peace in the streets and peace for the demonstrators," Hassaun said.
City, county and state leaders on Friday announced a "rules of engagement" agreement between police and roughly 50 protest groups. The pact is aimed at preventing violence on both sides.
Obama also urged Ferguson to keep the protests peaceful, saying all Americans have the right to peacefully assemble to speak against actions they regard as unjust. But, he said, using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to the rule of law.
The president commented in an interview with ABC News scheduled to air Sunday. The network released his comment about Ferguson on Friday night.
The civil rights organization Advancement Project said more than 70 protest actions are scheduled around the country, including occupying government space in Washington and a gathering at police headquarters in Chicago.
Concern about the aftermath of the announcement prompted one school district to call off classes for Monday and Tuesday. The Jennings district includes some students who live in Ferguson. It had previously planned to close for Thanksgiving starting Wednesday.
Antonio Henley, owner of Prime Time Beauty and Barber Shop in Ferguson, said concern about the pending announcement is hurting business.
"It's been rough, especially these past few weeks leading up to the decision," Henley said. "Our business has been cut in half because the people in the community are afraid to come around."
The FBI has sent nearly 100 additional agents to Ferguson to help law enforcement agencies, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the FBI plans.
Salter reported from St. Louis. Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier in Clayton, Missouri, and Eric Tucker and Jim Drinkard in Washington contributed to this report.