President Obama’s executive action on immigration will be coming soon despite continued Republican threats to block and oppose any unilateral decisions.
Speaking in Burma, Obama brushed aside those concerns by telling reporters that Republicans in Congress “have the ability to fix the system.”
“What they don’t have the ability to do is expect me to stand by with a broken system in perpetuity,” the president added. “This is something that needs to be done. It’s way overdue. We’ve been talking about it for 10 years now and it’s been consistently stalled.”
Obama has been making that argument since the GOP swept into control both houses of Congress after last week’s midterm elections. His decision is expected to revise deportation policies affecting nearly 5 million illegal immigrants (of a total estimated at around 11 million).
According to The New York Times, the upcoming executive order will include a provision long sought by immigration activists: allowing parents of children who are already American citizens (or otherwise legal residents) to stay. That could impact the status of well over 3 million people currently in the U.S. illegally.
While immigration activists have pressed the administration for action since Obama took office in 2009, the president has been wary to do anything on his own. But his public statements have displayed increasing frustration with the Congress since a promising bipartisan reform bill died in the House of Representatives earlier this year.
But Obama’s immigration executive actions would spark a fierce resistance from Republicans. Many of his congressional opponents on the right have taken to calling the possible orders “executive amnesty.” They see the president as seeking to reward those who broke the law and failing to do anything to strengthen a border they see as dangerously porous.
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said his caucus would do everything possible to stop Obama from acting unilaterally.
“We are going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path,” Boehner told reporters following a vote to keep him as speaker for the next Congress. “So all of the options are on the table.”
But would those options include pushing the government toward a shutdown again, a move that briefly hurt the Republican brand last year?
“Our goal here is to stop the president from violating his own oath of office and from violating the Constitution,” Boehner said. “It is not to shut down the government.”
The president has said that his executive orders will be wiped out by a comprehensive immigration reform bill, setting up his actions as a bid to pressure the Congress to take legislative action. But even some allies think going alone could have the opposite reaction.
“I think it will create a backlash in the country that could actually set the cause back and inflame our politics in a way that I don’t think will be conducive to solving the problem,” Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, told the Times.
But Democrats are becoming ever more concerned with their standing among Latino voters. That demographic has not been just a key part of their own base in recent elections, but also increasingly sought-after by Republicans.
Still, the issue stirs political passions among members of both parties that could affect other policy areas.
According to ABC News, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked the White House to hold off on the decision due to concerns that an Obama immigration executive action could derail a bipartisan funding bill that is due next month.[photo credit: Pete Souza/The White House]