In a Friday press conference, President Barack Obama had laid out plans for immigration reform that he could implement by executive order without waiting for Congress to act. He said he is reviewing recommendations from the Justice Departments and DHS, but has not offered a specific time frame for enacting the reforms. These comments come after mounting pressure from immigrant advocacy groups to stop the accelerated deportations of children and families. However, on Saturday, he reversed momentum, saying he would wait until after the November elections.
"My expectation is that fairly soon, I'll be considering what the next steps are," President Obama said. Why is the president waiting to implement his reforms? Democrats are worried about the upcoming November midterm elections, and want the president to wait until after the elections before he decides to take any executive action. Democrats are nervous that executive action by the president on immigration reform could work against them, especially in key election states.
The president was fairly specific in his intended reforms. He said he would move to increase border security, upgrade the processing of immigrants, encourage legal immigration and provide some way for unlawful immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a certain amount of time to become legal residents. Many Democrats are pressuring the president to delay taking any executive action. The decision to announce a change to defer deportations before Election Day is hotly debated in Washington, where more and more Democrats are urging the president to not take action, or to delay any reforms until after November's election.
However, it was in June of this year when the president vowed to issue an executive order before the end of summer. That day is fast approaching, and failing to take action will likely anger immigrant rights advocates, Hispanics and the many individuals and families waiting for relief from pending deportation.
A number of Democrats are publicly coming out against presidential executive action to address immigration reform. Citing the need for comprehensive immigration overhaul, they are criticizing action through executive order to counter what they see as a politically risky move. In Arizona, Democratic Congressional Representative Ann Kirkpatrick separated herself from the president's plan. Many Congressional Democrats have taken similar action. “Arizona has suffered from federal inaction to fix our broken immigration system. But executive action can't fix it,” Kirkpatrick said.
However, Representative Ron Barber took a much less direct approach. When Barber was asked about his reaction to President Obama's announcement on immigration reform through executive action, he declined answering the question. Others, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have similarly not responded either way to questions of whether the president should act before the elections, stating deference to whatever the president's decision will be.
President Obama has said, “in the absence of action by Congress, I'm going to do what I can do within the legal constraints of my office, because it's the right thing to do for the country." In the meantime, thousands continue to wait for a solution.