President Obama has asked the Department of Homeland Security to delay its review of deportation policies in a last-ditch effort to spur congressional action on immigration reform this summer, the White House said Tuesday.
"While the review is ongoing, the President believes there is an opportunity for Congressional action this summer, and has asked Secretary Johnson to hold on releasing any results from his review while this window for Congressional action remains open," a Department of Homeland Security official said Tuesday.
Earlier this spring, Obama ordered the review of administration practices after Latino activists and Democratic lawmakers complained that the president was not doing enough to stem a historic tide of deportations. But the move earned widespread condemnation from House Republicans, who said it was further evidence Obama couldn't be trusted to fully enforce a comprehensive immigration reform law.
The delay, the White House hopes, will give GOP leaders additional incentive to act on reform legislation before the November election.
"The president really wants to maximize the opportunity to get a permanent solution enacted, which requires Congress," Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council, told the Associated Press, which first reported the delay.
Earlier Tuesday, top immigration reform activists, including the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, National Immigration Forum, Service Employees International UnionNational Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, National Immigration Forum, and Service Employees International Union called on Obama to hold off on unilateral executive action.
"We strongly urge President Obama and his Administration to allow for this process to take place before issuing administrative action," the groups said in a joint statement. "We believe the President should move cautiously and give the House Leadership all of the space they may need to bring legislation to the floor for a vote."
“Should the House fail to move forward during this window, the Administration will have an obligation to use whatever tools are at its disposal under the law to prevent the tragic family break-ups and economic disruption that has become the daily norm," they continued.
Last week, the president signaled his waning optimism for a deal this summer, telling a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago that prospects for a deal hinged on the midterm elections.
“Think about what’s at stake right now. Think about it. If we do not hang on to the Senate and make gains in the House we may not get immigration reform done, which means we could have another three, four years in which we're being deprived of talent we're training here in the United States — they go back home and start businesses someplace else,” Obama said.
The comments appeared to underscore his belief that Republicans were unwilling to move on legislation, even after the conclusion of primary season. Obama complained at that time that Republicans “so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system."
But earlier this month, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said she was optimistic that House Republicans would move on reform before the midterm elections.
“I think we have a window this summer, between now and August, to get something done,” Jarrett said, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “We have a commitment from Speaker Boehner, who’s very frustrated with his caucus.”
Last week, Boehner said there was “nobody more interested in fixing this problem than I am,” but blamed the president for reticence among lawmakers to move ahead with a bill. Boehner argued the president’s implementation of ObamaCare had eroded trust in his ability to enforce immigration reform.
"When he continues to ignore ObamaCare, his own law, 38 unilateral delays, he reduces the confidence of the American people in his willingness to implement an immigration law the way we would pass it," he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also suggested last week that if Republicans don’t move on an immigration bill before the August recess, the president could act unilaterally.
"If they don't pass immigration reform then, the President will have no choice but to act on his own. We'd much rather pass legislation," Schumer said.