President Obama said in a speech on Monday from the White House Rose Garden that he would bypass Congress and use executive action on U.S. immigration policy as hope fades that Congress will come together and pass immigration reform.
Last year President Obama asked the House of Representatives to pass immigration legislation by this year that would have strengthened border security and allowed 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to gain a pathway towards U.S. citizenship if they pay a penalty, pass a background check, pay their fair share of taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line.
Now that immigration legislation is officially dead for the year and put on hold for later.
Occasionally speaking in angry tones, President Obama singled out House Republicans for working against his immigration reform efforts and siding with the tea party.
“Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill. They’d be following the will of the majority of the American people who support reform” Obama said.
“Instead, they’ve proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what’s best for the country” Obama added.
Later in his speech, President Obama explained his rationale for taking executive action.
“I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing” Obama said.
President Obama said that he will first use executive action to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to move available and appropriate resources from our interior to the border and protect public safety while deporting dangerous criminals.
Comprehensive immigration reform still requires a coordinated effort from Congress.
President Obama acknowledged that taking administrative action in selected areas of immigration policy will not usher in the necessary immigration reforms that are still needed for the country.
“The reforms that will do the most to strengthen our businesses, our workers, and our entire economy will still require an act of Congress. And I repeat: These are reforms that already enjoy the wide support of the American people” Obama explained.
“It’s very rare where you get labor, business, evangelicals, law enforcement all agreeing on what needs to be done” Obama added.
The Senate passed bipartisan immigration legislation in 2013 that was embraced by business leaders, labor unions, law enforcement, and deficit-minded economists.
But the legislation was stalled in the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives and is going nowhere.
Last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told President Obama that the House would not vote on any immigration legislation this year.
Boehner took it a step further and threatened to introduce new legislation next month that permits the House to file a lawsuit against the president over his use of executive actions.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement after the president’s immigration announcement:
“In our conversation last week, I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue. The crisis at our southern border reminds us all of the critical importance of fixing our broken immigration system. It is sad and disappointing that – faced with this challenge – President Obama won’t work with us, but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can’t and won’t fix these problems.
“The president’s own executive orders have led directly to the humanitarian crisis along the Southern border, giving false hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally they will be allowed to stay. The White House claims it will move to return these children to their families in their home countries, yet additional executive action from this president isn’t going to stem the tide of illegal crossings, it’s only going to make them worse. As the Supreme Court reminded us this week, under our Constitution there are sharp limits to what the president can accomplish if he ignores the American people and their elected representatives.”
United States immigration policy has largely been stuck in neutral since the Immigration Act of 1990 was passed. Immigration reform is a thorny issue for many House Republican leaders on Capitol Hill as they gear up for the upcoming mid-term election in November.
It is far easier for House Republicans to sidestep the immigration reform issue altogether and avoid having an immigration vote record attached to their name that could potentially haunt their election campaigns.
After House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia) was surprisingly defeated in early June during a primary vote to Virginia Tea Party challenger David Brat due in part to his support for immigration reform, many House Republicans in Washington D.C. learned a lesson about how advocacy for immigration could expose them to the wrath of their Republican base that is firmly opposed to any reform efforts led by President Obama.