White House: Election boosts immigration

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The White House believes that the election of a new House leadership team has opened up an opportunity to pass immigration reform this summer, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said Friday.

Jarrett said the change necessitated by Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) surprising primary loss gives new life to immigration reform.

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“There’s a change in leadership obviously with Cantor’s loss and so we have an opportunity with a new team in place in the House to act,” Jarrett told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Friday.

President Obama believes “this summer is a pivotal opportunity for us to get comprehensive immigration reform passed through the House,” she added.

In a historic upset earlier this month, Cantor lost his primary to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat, who repeatedly accused the Republican lawmaker of supporting “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. On Thursday, Republicans elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to replace Cantor as majority leader.

Conventional wisdom has held that Cantor’s loss would spook already wary Republican leaders from pursuing immigration reform legislation over the summer.

But Jarrett said in discussions with business leaders in recent days that “nobody has said to me they thought his defeat was because of immigration reform.” In recent days, Jarrett shared a dinner with News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and a breakfast with the Business Roundtable to discuss the topic.

Jarrett also noted that Cantor himself disputed the notion that immigration was to blame during an interview on Sunday.

"I don’t think there is any one reason for the outcome of the election," Cantor told CNN.

Jarrett also indicated that Republican lawmakers had told the White House they would be more able to address immigration reform after the primaries had concluded.

“Leading up to the election, what we were hearing from the House is we’ll wait until the primary season are over,” Jarrett said. “So in a sense, cool your jets, let’s get through the primary season, and then with that behind us between the primary and the end of the summer we have an opportunity. And so, the election’s over now.”

Jarrett also said the administration was looking at executive actions he could take that would be “building upon” the deferred action program he announced in 2012, which affords some children who came to the U.S. illegally temporary legal status.

“He’s looking at what are the options he has under the executive powers he has,” Jarrett said. “I don’t want to prejudge what those might be.”