Obama Delays Immigration Action, Yielding to Democratic Concerns

Michael D. Shearsept, New York Times, September 7, 2014

President Obama will delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections, bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats who feared that acting now could doom his party’s chances this fall, White House officials said on Saturday.

The decision is a reversal of Mr. Obama’s vow to issue broad directives to overhaul the immigration system soon after summer’s end, and sparked swift anger from immigration advocates. The president made the promise on June 30, in the Rose Garden, where he angrily denounced Republican obstruction and said he would use the power of his office to protect immigrant families from the threat of deportation.

“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,” a White House official said. “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.”

Cristina Jimenez, the managing director for United We Dream, an immigration advocacy group, accused Mr. Obama of “playing politics” with the lives of immigrant families and said, “The president’s latest broken promise is another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community.”

Administration officials insist that Mr. Obama is more determined than ever to take action–eventually. But the president and his top aides have concluded that an immigration announcement before November could anger conservatives across the country, possibly cripple Democratic efforts to retain control of the Senate and severely set back any hope for progress on a permanent immigration overhaul.


Mr. Obama acknowledged that the surge in unaccompanied children at the border undermined public support for a broader immigration overhaul. He said delaying any executive action would give the administration more time to get the policy right and explain it to the public.


The president and his team believe that waiting until after the election season is over will allow him to unveil sweeping and sustainable changes to the immigration system that could potentially shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation and provide work permits for many.

“The president is confident in his authority to act, and he will before the end of the year,” one official said, speaking anonymously to discuss White House strategy.


The president’s aides said he was certain to take action after the election, but they have declined to say specifically what actions he is considering or how many people they could affect. Mr. Obama said on Friday that he had begun reviewing options and recommendations from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security.

Among the possibilities that officials have explored is the unilateral expansion of a program that would provide many illegal immigrants with work permits to allow them to legally live and work in the country indefinitely.


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