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Obama Punts on Immigration Until After Elections (Updated)

Obama is expected to announce his immigration overhaul Friday. (Reuters File Photo)
Obama is expected to announce his immigration overhaul Friday. (Reuters File Photo)

Updated 11:46 a.m. | President Barack Obama intends to delay an announcement of executive actions related to immigration until after the mid-term elections, a source with direct knowledge of the White House decision confirmed to CQ Roll Call.  

One day after Obama told reporters he
planned to announce his executive action on immigration “soon,”
 he appears to have expanded the definition of “soon” to at least early November. White House officials told the Associated Press and the New York Times of the decision earlier Saturday.  

The decision outraged advocates for deportation relief.  

“The President’s latest broken promise is another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community,” said Cristina Jimenez, managing director for United We Dream.  

She accused Obama of “playing politics with the lives of our families.”  

“Where we have demanded leadership and courage from both Democrats and the President, we’ve received nothing but broken promises and a lack of political backbone. To wait nine more weeks means the President has agreed to deport more than 70,000 people, more than 1,100 every day, and continues cementing his legacy as the Deporter-in-Chief,” she said in a statement.  

“We advocates didn’t make the reform promise; we just made the mistake of believing it,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.  

Senate Democrats have been worried the president’s action could cost them seats in November, with control of the chamber at stake.  

A White House official sent this lengthy statement:

The President has made clear that while nothing replaces Congress acting on comprehensive immigration reform, given the House Republicans’ refusal to act for over a year, the President will use his executive authority to take significant steps to reform our broken immigration system.

The President wants to do this in a way that is sustainable for the long-term, that is most effective and good for the country.  The reality the President has had to weigh is that we’re in the midst of the political season, and because of the Republicans’ extreme politicization of this issue, the President believes it would be harmful to the policy itself and to the long-term prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to announce administrative action before the elections. Because he wants to do this in a way that’s sustainable, the President will take action on immigration before the end of the year.

For example, we have seen how Republicans have fought hard to exploit the humanitarian situation at the Rio Grande Valley.  But the President was focused on fixing the problem and taking steps to address the issue, and now the number of unaccompanied minors entering along the southwest border has steadily decreased- July numbers were about half of what they were in June.  August was even lower: lower than last August and the lowest month since February 2013.  The border is more secure than ever before – without any help from Republicans in Congress who obstructed the Administration’s request for additional resources to deal with this problem.

The President has had many conversations and consultations throughout this process – including with his Cabinet, members of Congress, stakeholders, and advocates on this issue.  The President is confident in his authority to act, and he will before the end of the year.  But again, nothing will replace Congress acting on comprehensive immigration reform and the President will keep pressing Congress to act.

According to the AP, White House aides said they weren’t convinced the issue would have hurt Democrats, but felt that it could have hurt the chances of passing a broad overhaul later on.  

Brad Dayspring, a strategist for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, predicted the move would motivate Republicans:

Advocates for immigrants however have been pressing Obama hard to keep to his word in a June 30 Rose Garden ceremony where he said he planned to act without delay at the end of the summer. The White House had reportedly been considering expanding deportation relief and work permits to as many as five million of the 11 million people believed to be in the United States illegally.  

That had briefly raised the potential for a showdown later this month as Congress debates a must-pass bill to fund the government, although Republican leaders had shown no interest in a repeat of last year’s shutdown drama that momentarily boosted Democratic fortunes.  


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