President Obama said last Sunday that he would go ahead with his plan to take action on immigration, despite the GOP’s warnings that any unilateral action on immigration would “poison the well” and “will hurt cooperation on every issue.” There are reports that he will announce his plan next week.
Republican leaders, including Senator John McCain, co-author of the 2013 Senate immigration reform bill, believe that with the shift of power in Congress, executive action by the President would hurt the chances of ever passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
The President, however, rejected their warnings and said that he had waited long enough for Congress to act on immigration reform. It has been over a year since the Senate passed the immigration reform bill and House Republicans have adamantly refused to vote on the bill.
The President has moved his timetable twice already since he announced his plan last March to use his executive authority. The first time was last May when he directed Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to delay changes in deportation enforcement to give Congress one last chance to pass the immigration reform bill. The second time was last September when he was pressured by Democrats in heavily leaning Republican states to postpone it until after the midterm elections.
The delay didn’t help Democrats as the Republicans went on to capture the Senate and expanded its majority in the House.
The President maintains that he is not bypassing Congress and he would prefer that Congress pass legislation on immigration reform. “The minute they pass a bill that addresses the problems with immigration reform, I will sign it and it supersedes whatever I take,” he said in an interview.
Immigrant rights advocates believe that the GOP members’ staunch opposition against the President’s plan to issue administrative orders to change current immigration policies calling it “amnesty” orders is without basis. The President by exercising his executive authority can only grant temporary reprieve from deportation and only Congress can provide legal status for the undocumented.
Should Congress wish to pass an immigration reform bill, they may very well do so. In fact, the President is encouraging Congress to pass an immigration reform bill and “on parallel track” he said, “we’re going to be implementing an executive action.”
This would not be the first time that executive action on immigration would lead up to legislation in Congress. Through the years, executive orders of many U.S. Presidents such as Presidents Kennedy, Truman, Ford, among others, granting parole and deferred action initiated in response to crises, have been ratified by Congress granting beneficiaries legal status through legislation.
There is no denying the urgent need to fix broken immigration system and to address the needs of the 11 million undocumented in the country. With the continued refusal of GOP house members to vote on the immigration reform bill which has been languishing in the House of Representatives far too long, the President’s executive action set to be announced as early as next week should be good prelude to a legislation on immigration reform from Congress.