White House Pursuing Plan to Expand Immigrant Rights

Christi Parsons et al., Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2014

Even as President Obama grapples with the crisis of immigrant children arriving at the Southwest border, White House officials are laying the groundwork for a large-scale expansion of immigrant rights that would come by executive action within weeks.

Officials signaled strongly Friday that Obama’s move would shield from deportation large numbers of immigrants living in the country illegally, as advocacy groups have demanded.

Roughly 5 million of the estimated 11 million people who entered the country without legal authorization or overstayed their visas could be protected under a leading option the White House is considering, according to officials who discussed the proposals on condition of anonymity.

Obama said last month that because Congress had failed to act on comprehensive immigration reform, he would take executive action to “fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own.”

That move will come by the end of the summer, White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters Friday. Some officials had advocated waiting until after the November midterm election.

Any such move would prompt a major clash with congressional Republicans, and at least some White House officials appeared to relish the prospect that the GOP might overreach in its response and act in a politically self-destructive manner.

When the decision is announced, it will “increase the angry reactions from Republicans,” Pfeiffer said.

“I would not discount the possibility” that Republicans would seek to impeach Obama over his next immigration moves, he said, adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had “opened the door to impeachment” by his plans to sue Obama for allegedly exceeding his executive authority.

Pfeiffer made his comments at a breakfast for reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Boehner repeatedly has ruled out calls for impeachment proceedings, and his lawsuit against Obama has been widely seen as an effort to provide an alternative for Republicans infuriated by what they see as too much unilateral action by the president.

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Obama could use his executive powers to expedite deportations in response to the current border crisis, in an effort to clear the large numbers of unaccompanied minors gathering daily in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas.

At the same time, he seems likely to act to prevent deportations of many of the immigrants already living, working and raising children in the U.S.

One option would allow immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens to apply for temporary legal status which would let them work legally in the U.S. Because children born in the country automatically receive U.S. citizenship, that option could affect about 5 million people, researchers estimate.

A second option would be to allow temporary legal status for the parents of young people already granted deportation deferrals by the Obama administration. That would affect a smaller, but still sizable, number of people.

So far, more than 520,000 people have received permits to stay and work in the U.S. under the administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created in 2012 for young people who were brought to the U.S. as children.

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