Will President Barack Obama move to act alone on immigration reform? It certainly sounds that way. Even though a slew of analysts (including yours truly) have long predicted that the GOP would have to join forces with the Democrats to get some kind of immigration reform through Congress, most signs now point to GOPers putting off any action on it until after the 2014 elections. Perhaps considerably after the 2016 election.
The signs that the Obama administration will move to take some kind of action to respond to keep its longstanding promises, answer the demands of Latino groups and also help define the GOP are multifold.
Senate Democratic leaders say President Obama will act unilaterally to reform the nation’s immigration system if House Republicans fail to pass legislation by the end of July.
“They have about a six-week window, from June 10 after the last Republican primary until the August recess. If they don’t pass immigration reform them, the president will have no choice but to act on his own,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader and author of the comprehensive Senate immigration reform proposal.
“The only blame will fall on the House Republicans who against the wishes of their party and the American people who are just following Steve King’s dictates and refusing to move,” he said, referring to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken opponent of increasing immigration flows.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that the Obama administration will have to act alone on stemming deportations if the House doesn’t move on immigration reform by this summer’s end.
The comments from Reid appeared to be the most definitive that the Senate’s top Democrat has given on the politically thorny question of whether the administration should use executive authority to halt deportations. That’s a top demand of pro-reform advocates, particularly from those who are skeptical the House will end up doing anything on immigration this year.
he issue for Reid, as it is for other Democrats, is timing. Senate Democrats believe there is a narrow window of about six weeks this summer — from mid-June to the end of July — for the GOP-led House to move immigration bills, and they want the focus during that period to be on Republican lawmakers, not the administration.
“We’ve waited 329 days, we’re willing to wait another six weeks,” Reid said Thursday, referring to the number of days that have passed since his chamber passed a comprehensive reform bill. “But at the end of six weeks, if something hasn’t been done, then there’s gonna have to be a move made. And it’s too bad we have to do that, because we all know things can be done administratively, but it’s better to change the law.”
Reid said the best solution on immigration is a sweeping rewrite led by Congress. He endorsed an idea first floated by one of his top deputies, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): Pass a bill this year, but have it take effect in January 2017 when a new president moves into the White House.
That is meant to take aim at a chief criticism from House Republicans: They don’t trust President Barack Obama to implement an immigration bill.
But that criticism is most likely partisan window-dressing: it’s an excuse to not do something that most analysts including many Republicans feel the GOP needs to do to survive in upcoming national elections and, because, polls show many Republicans feel it’s the right thing to do.
Reid today was even more blunt in a challenge to Republicans:
Senate Democrats on Thursday insisted that House Republicans should take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation as soon as possible, even if that means delaying its implementation until President Obama is out of office.
“Here’s a suggestion,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said to reporters. “Let’s pass immigration reform today and make it take effect in 2017… under President Rand Paul or President Theodore Cruz.” (Sen. Ted Cruz’s full name is, in fact, Rafael Edward Cruz)
Republicans taking him up on that offer are about as likely as the House allowing meaningful immigration reform to pass.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.