Legislative Update: Obama Postpones Executive Amnesty

NiLP Note: Here is how the right and “true immigration reformers” are framing President Obama’s decision to delay executive a tion on deportation relief.

—Angelo Falcónindex

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) (September 9, 2014)

On Saturday, President Obama announced that he will delay taking unilateral action to grant amnesty until after the November elections. The White House justified the decision in an official statement sent to CQ Roll Call stating:

“The reality the President has had to weigh is that we’re in the midst of the political season, and because of the Republicans’ extreme politicization of this issue, the President believes it would be harmful to the policy itself and to the long-term prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to announce administrative action before the elections… Because he wants to do this in a way that’s sustainable, the President will take action on immigration before the end of the year, “the statement insists.” (Roll Call, Sept. 6, 2014)

The decision to abandon the plan for executive action before the end of summer came less than 24 hours after the President declared that he was going to act “soon.” (The Hill, Sept. 5, 2014)

On Sunday, President Obama appeared on Meet the Press to defend his decision. “The truth of the matter is – is that the politics did shift midsummer because of [the unaccompanied minors] problem,” Obama said. (See NBC News, Sept. 6, 2014; video of the interview available here)

The President also claimed he needed more time to convince the American people of the merits of his administrative amnesty. “I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this, why it’s the right thing for the American people, why it’s the right thing for the American economy.” (Id.) Yet, recent polls show that 75 percent of Americans favor more immigration enforcement and reduced levels of immigration over amnesty. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 26, 2014)

True immigration reformers blasted the President’s decision to delay action until after the November elections as a political stunt meant to keep the Senate’s Democratic majority. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said, “President Obama’s announcement that this would come only after the midterm elections is of course an attempt to protect the Senate Democrat incumbents who have enable President Obama’s lawless immigration decrees every step of the way.” (Sessions Press Release, Sept. 6, 2014) Similarly, Rep. Lamar Smith stated, “The White House’s decision to delay executive action on immigration until after the election is an open admission that the president intends to take actions that the majority of Americans oppose,” charged Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). (Smith Press Release, Sept. 6, 2014)

House GOP leadership’s criticism of the President focused on the politics behind the delay. “There is never a ‘right’ time for the president to declare amnesty by executive action,” Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement, “but the decision to simply delay this deeply-controversial and possibly unconstitutional unilateral action until after the election – instead of abandoning the idea altogether – smacks of raw politics.” (Boehner Press Release, Sept. 6, 2014) Likewise, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said, “The president needs to abandon his attempt to issue blanket amnesty by executive order” and “stop using immigration as a political tool during election time.” (Scalise Press Release, Sept. 6, 2014)

Predictably, pro-amnesty groups were outraged by President Obama’s decision to not delay deportations now. “We are bitterly disappointed in the president and we are bitterly disappointed in the Senate Democrats,” lamented Frank Sherry, executive director of America’s Voice. (Associated Press, Sept. 6, 2014) Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, complained that the decision was “another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community,” adding that amnesty advocates have “received nothing but broken promises and a lack of political backbone.” (Id.) Additionally, Arturo Carmona, director of Presente.org, called the delay a “betrayal” and one of the “single biggest attacks on Latino families by the Democratic Party in recent memory.” (The Hill, Sept. 6, 2014)

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