CREDIT: ThinkProgress/ Esther Y. Lee
During a press conference Monday, President Obama said that he would pursue executive steps that he can take without the need of Congressional approval to fix immigration reform. Obama said House Republicans’ refusal to pass immigration reform has led him to adopt changes unilaterally, without further delay.
Obama said that he didn’t want to use administration relief because he preferred to see “permanent fixes” through bipartisan legislation, but criticized House Republicans for failing to “pass a darn bill.” He has ordered Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct the review.
“If House Republicans are really too concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best solution to that is passing bills,” he explained. “Pass a bill. Solve a problem. Don’t just say no.”
“I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much as I can on my own,” he said. “As a first step, I’m moving available resources to the border. We’re going to refocus our efforts when we can. … I will see what additional actions that my administration can do on our own to fix as much of the immigration system as we can.”
Obama also addressed the unaccompanied child crisis, calling on Congress to authorize a $2 billion emergency fund to stem the influx, such as stepping up deportation efforts and sending more immigration judges to South Texas.
“The problem is that our system is so unclear that folks don’t know what the rules are,” he added. The Republican “argument seems to be that because the system is broken, we shouldn’t make the effort to fix it.
Obama announced that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told him last week that the House would not move on immigration reform this year, according to the Associated Press. Obama previously ordered a delay for the DHS Secretary Johnson to release a review of the administration’s deportation policies. Obama had hoped that Congress would approve an overhaul on immigration reform, which would provide a permanent pathway to citizenship that would outlast his presidency in a way that an executive action would not.
House Democrats announced last week that they would put pressure on the President to halt deportations and distributed a manual to Congressional members that guides them to intervene with deportation proceedings. Activists have also turned up pressure on Obama, whom they have labeled as the Deporter-In-Chief, to expand his presidential initiative known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which establishes temporary legal presence and a two-year deportation reprieve, to all immigrants who have not committed serious offenses and are not national security risks.
A reporter shouted out at the end of the press conference if the President would expand the DACA program, but the President did not respond.
By some accounts the Obama administration has already authorized more than two million deportations by April.