President delays deportation review

5/28/2014

President delays deportation review

President delays deportation review

WASHINGTON (MCT) — The White House's surprise decision Wednesday to delay a review of deportations once again revived the immigration debate, shifting focus away from President Barack Obama — who has increasingly come under fire from immigrant advocates as the "deporter in chief" — and throwing the issue back into the laps of reluctant House Republicans.

Some viewed it as a shrewd political move by Obama that just might produce an immigration law overhaul this summer, but others cautioned against raising hopes, especially given the disunity in the Republican Party over how to grapple with the thorny issue in an election year.

By delaying a planned Department of Homeland Security review of deportation procedures until August, the White House said it wanted to provide the House with a window of opportunity to pass a reform bill before the midterm election. "We wouldn't want (the review) to create a reason not to act or an excuse not to act," said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Republican leaders, however, were cool to the president's overture. House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said Obama's decision to postpone the deportation review should not be seen as a "concession" to Republicans, but as part of the president's responsibility to uphold existing laws. "Now isn't the time to be playing politics with immigration enforcement or our national security," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

House Republicans have said they are hesitant to pass any immigration laws because they don't trust the president to enforce the ones already on the books. That, in turn, has led Obama to say he has no choice but to use his "pen and phone" to take executive actions.

Curbing that circular argument was part of the strategy behind Wednesday's move. Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to stand down on a plan to devise ways to reduce the number of deportations. The White House feared that even modest changes to its deportation policy would antagonize Republicans, disappoint immigration activists and doom any chances of a bipartisan agreement.

But opening the door for congressional action and getting House Republicans to walk through it remain two very different goals.

Republicans have come a long way in softening their rhetoric on immigration reform as the party tries to expand its diminishing political base and appeal to more Latino and other minority voters. Boehner has mocked GOP colleagues for whining that immigration reform was "too hard" and admonished hard-liners, such Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who suggested that young immigrants who crossed the border illegally were probably drug mules.

At the same time, the GOP infighting remains intense. Many Republican lawmakers from conservative districts have no interest in providing immigrants with legal status, let alone a path to citizenship, which was the cornerstone of a bipartisan reform bill that passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last year.

Obama's decision to hit the pause button is not without risks within his own party. Immigrant advocates have grown increasingly impatient after legislation in Congress stalled, turning their ire on the White House.

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