Advocates for illegal immigrants fear the White House is doing the bare minimum to appease Latino voters before the midterm elections in November, while concentrating its efforts on other issues it considers more urgent.
A White House commitment to overhaul the nation’s immigration system this year is collapsing, with the Obama administration undecided about the best way to proceed on an issue the president had identified as a top priority.
Immigration advocates who meet regularly with White House officials said the Obama administration had been considering several approaches, including convening a summit meeting devoted to the issue and putting forward its own bill. Those who attended a session Friday with administration officials said they came away with no indication the White House had settled on a course of action.
“He made some commitments that he’s supposed to be delivering on,” said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the Obama White House. “And that was over a month ago. So everybody can look at the calendar and make a pretty educated guess about how many days we have to get immigration done.”
“The critical ingredient for whether we get immigration reform done this year will be whether the president has the courage to step forward and lead,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, an advocacy group for low-income people and minority groups. “That is the indispensible ingredient.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), once a proponent of a sweeping immigration overhaul, released a 10-point plan on Monday that focused exclusively on border security.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a supporter of the 10-point plan, said in an interview: “The prospects this year are not very good” for passage of an immigration bill. He cited as the reason “huge violence” at the border and the lack of consensus on the elements of an immigration bill.
Obama initially had promised to take up the issue in his first year in office. He missed the deadline amid an all-out push to enact a healthcare overhaul. Now, Obama is pushing for new regulations for the financial industry, tighter campaign finance laws and a new Supreme Court justice to replace John Paul Stevens, who is retiring.