Obama pledges to take executive actions on immigration reform

President Obama on Monday said he would take executive actions to move forward with immigration reform after declaring any hopes for legislation dead.

The president blamed House Republicans for the stalemate on immigration, describing GOP leaders as “unwilling to stand up to the Tea Party.”

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“If Congress will not do its job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said in comments from the White House Rose Garden. 

Obama made the comments after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the president last week that the House would not vote on an immigration bill this year.

Boehner has blamed inaction on Obama, who Republicans say they do not trust to enforce immigration laws.

"In our conversation last week, I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don't trust him to enforce the law as written," Boehner said in a statement after Obama's remarks. "Until that changes it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue."

The politics on immigration have been further complicated by a surge of young immigrants, many of them children, coming to the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Republicans say the new wave of immigrants are coming because they believe they will be allowed to stay in the United States as a result of Obama’s policies. The administration has acknowledged many incorrectly think they’ll be able to stay but has also blamed violence for the surge.

"The president's own executive orders have led directly to the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, giving false hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally they will be allowed to stay," Boehner said in the statement.

"The White House claims it will move to return these children to their families in their home countries yet additional executive action from this president isn't going to stem the tide of illegal crossings, it's only going to make them worse."

Obama said he would move resources from the interior to the border in order to “refocus efforts” to keep the border secure. He otherwise offered few details on any administration actions he has in mind.

The president repeatedly ripped Republicans for not moving on immigration. After the Senate approved an immigration bill last year, he said the House GOP's failure to “pass a darn bill is bad for our security ... our economy and our future." Calling it “politics, pure and simple,” Obama said he would fix as much of the immigration effort as he could administratively. 

“I don't prefer taking administrative action,” he said, standing beside Vice President Biden. “I've made that clear multiple times. ... I only take executive action when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing.”

The president said he had "held off on pressuring" Republicans on the issue to give Boehner the space he needed to move legislation. And while he said he believed Boehner did ultimately want to pass an immigration bill, the GOP has “proven again and again that they're unwilling to stand up against the Tea Party,” Obama said. 

“A bunch of them know better,” Obama added. 

In his remarks, Obama said on July 4 he would naturalize several U.S. service members.

— This story was updated at 4:02 p.m.

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