As the timeline for executive action put forth by President Barack Obama nears, he faces pressure from both sides on how to proceed. Immigration advocates are warning the president that Democrats cannot take the Latino vote for granted, and should not further delay any action. On the other hand, Republican are warning the president to wait, and not act without Congress to pass immigration reform.
Immigration activists have grown increasingly frustrated by the president making promises to enact immigration reform only to keep delaying any executive action. The latest delay put the decision on a back-burner until after the November elections. Now, with the elections around the corner, the time for promised action gets closer.
However, even his supporters are unsure of what eventual reform, even in the form of executive action, may look like. The executive director of immigrant advocacy group America's Voice, Frank Sharry, said, “there's a growing nervousness that instead of going big and bold that the administration might play it cautiously.”
On the other side of the aisle, Republican senators have pushed the president to wait on taking any action to lift deportation orders. In a letter, the senators, including Arizona's John McCain, said that, “acting by executive order on an issue of this magnitude would be the most divisive action you could take — completely undermining any good-faith effort to meaningfully address this important issue.”
The three senators were part of the “Gang of Eight” bipartisan group which passed an immigration overhaul in June of 2013. Their measure included increased border security, more visas for legal immigration, and a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants already in the country. However, the House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans has not taken any action to vote on the bill, and there are no indications a vote will be coming anytime soon.
While the president has not given a detailed plan of what any executive immigration reform would look like, there are a couple of possible scenarios. One possibility is that deportation orders could be removed for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for 10 years with U.S. citizen children. That may affect as many as 3 million people. Another possibility could extend relief to parents of children known as “Dreamers,” that group already granted relief as young people brought into the U.S. as children. This would affect up to 5 million people.
It may be the election results which determine how far the president will go in enacting immigration reform. There is a further possibility that tight races may force run-off elections, which could result in the president again postponing any action until 2015, which would greatly disappoint immigration activists eager for some sort of resolution for the millions waiting in deportation limbo.
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, is worried that the president will back down in the face of Republican opposition, instead choosing a middle ground that would likely please no one, and upset everyone. “This is an action that frankly we believe the president should have taken months ago,” Hincapié said. “We're holding the president to his word, there are no more excuses.”