House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters Thursday that he wouldn’t guarantee a House floor vote on immigration reform, even if President Obama held back on taking executive action. Boehner added that the “flood of kids” from Central America who came across the border in increasing numbers this year ruined the immigration debate entirely.
“What held us back last year was a flood of kids coming to the border because of the actions that the President had already taken,” Boehner said, disagreeing with a reporter assessment that conservative members may have “yanked” him back from passing immigration reform. “But let me tell you what. American people from the right to the left started to look at this issue in a very different way. That’s why I made it clear — the President if he continues down this path to taking action his year, is inviting big trouble… I could regale you with all of my challenges with trying to get both members on both sides of the aisle to deal with this. And they were numerous, but hope springs eternal.”
Boehner’s statement Thursday contradicts another one he previously made — that he would act only if Obama promised not to take executive action. Obama had “paused his ongoing review of deportation policy” in April after Boehner indicated that the House would take action, Vox said. But when he didn’t, the president resumed the review in June.
On Wednesday, Obama recommitted to taking executive action by the end of this year to fill the void House Republicans left when they failed to bring an immigration reform bill to the House floor, despite his waiting on them to do so. While some claim that making such a move could ruin any chances of passing permanent legislation through Congress, Boehner’s statement suggests these claims were nothing more than the latest excuse not to pass any bills. In fact, Boehner encouraged the president to take executive action to fix the border situation with unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America back in July.
Even before children crossed the border in larger numbers this summer, Latin America kids had been showing up at the southern border in large numbers for the past four years. Some studies found that many of these kids came because they are fleeing violence, not because of they believe they will receive an immigration benefit.
President Obama has said again and again that kids who cross the border may get sent back, if they survive the journey at all. But he also said after this election this week that enforcement resources may be “misallocated” to “separating families right now that most of us, most Americans would say probably we’d rather have them just pay their back taxes, pay a fine, learn English, get to the back of the line, but we’ll give you a pathway where you can be legal in this country.” And he recommitted to take executive action before the end of the year to fix what he can, whatever the House reaction.