Immigration activists: Obama's hinted to us that he'll act in three months if the House doesn't

Could just be empty blather from amnesty fans aimed at scaring Boehner into acting (which is also what the new Democratic discharge petition is about) but the timeline is specific and Greg Sargent has two different sources for it. Evidently O said something to these people privately to make them think there’ll be movement on immigration this summer, one way or another.

Last chance for the GOP leadership to catch the amnesty train before it leaves the station?

Two immigration reform advocates who have spoken personally with the president in recent days tell me they came away convinced he knows he will have to resort to executive action by summer if Republicans do nothing.

“The president made it clear that three months from now, if there is no legislative action, he will do more using executive authority,” says Lorella Praelli, the director of advocacy and policy for United We Dream, who was in a recent meeting between advocates and President Obama. “That was the message that we got in different ways.”

“The president left the clear impression that if Republicans don’t act in three months, he will,” added Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, who was also at the meeting…

[T]he fact is there is good reason to think Obama will likely act if Republicans don’t move by summer. The Department of Homeland Security is already reviewing possibilities. If nothing happens by July, and we head into August recess, it’s hard to imagine Republicans acting in September or October, when the midterms are in full swing.

It’s now or never for Boehner, says Sargent, who makes the same point Matt Lewis did a few months ago about the prospects for reform next year. If the GOP does nothing on immigration now and ends up crushing the Democrats in November anyway, some border hawks will take it as a sign that doing nothing is the way to go electorally. If inaction delivers the Senate to Republicans, more inaction might deliver the White House, no? And it’s true, that argument will be made. But if there’s any lesson to be gleaned from the last three election cycles, it’s that the electorate for midterm elections and the electorate for presidential elections are starkly different creatures. We’ve bounced from an Obama landslide in 2008 to a Republican landslide in 2010 back to an Obama landslide in 2012 and likely back again to another GOP rout this fall. If you believe that amnesty is a “gateway issue” that must pass with GOP support before Latino voters will give the Republican agenda a fair hearing — and a lot of influential Republicans do seem to believe it — then having a winning formula in 2014 (which includes inaction on immigration) potentially means little for 2016, when the electorate will be bluer and turnout among Latinos will be higher. That’s why every prospective GOP nominee, Ted Cruz included, supports some form of legalization for illegals. Either Boehner will get together with Obama and the Senate early next year to pass immigration reform or, if that proves impossible for whatever reason, you’ll hear plenty of promises from Republican presidential candidates about working with Congress to pass reform lickety split once they’re in office in 2017. Like it or not, Paul Ryan’s right.

But that’s the future. The question for the present is whether an executive amnesty would help or hurt Democrats in the midterms. There’s virtually no way it helps, right? If red-staters like Landrieu and Hagan are in trouble now because of ObamaCare, imagine how tough it’ll be for them once they’re forced to answer for King Barack’s royal proclamation that all non-criminal illegals are free to stay. They could try attacking him over it, but that probably won’t work. Their lame attempts to distance themselves from O-Care haven’t dug them out of the hole, after all; why would they have any more success with amnesty? When a president becomes an albatross for his party, his unpopular acts damage his party’s candidates even when they have nothing to do with them. Which is why, I assume, whatever O’s planning to do three months from now will be exceedingly modest — e.g., dropping deportations of illegals with minor criminal records a bit further down ICE’s priority list but not declaring any sort of broad moratorium for the illegal population generally. That way he can say he did something for amnesty fans without having done anything so dramatic that it further damages Democrats’ electoral chances in November. The only way he’d do something splashy, I think, is if Landrieu et al. have fallen so far behind this summer that there’s virtually nothing to lose by declaring a moratorium. At that point, he might figure that a bold gesture could bring out a few more Latino voters, and even if it doesn’t, it’ll bank some gratitude for the party to use in 2016.