President Obama will delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections, bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats who feared that acting now could doom his party’s chances this fall, White House officials said on Saturday…
“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,” a White House official said. “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.”…
Arturo Carmona, the executive director of Presente.org, called Mr. Obama’s decision “a betrayal” of the Latino community and “shameful.” He said the president “is once again demonstrating that for him, politics come before the lives of Latino and immigrant families.”
[H]e decided to delay any move to “take this issue away from those who would use it to score points as a kind of grandstanding issue,” the White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It’s too big of an issue to allow it to be used as a tool for people trying to get votes,” the official said. “It isn’t about votes for any particular candidate; it’s about dealing with this issue in an environment that avoids the grandstanding we’ve seen in the past.”
According to an activist familiar with details of the decision to delay the immigration announcement, Obama’s political advisers became concerned with internal polling in the last few weeks for a handful of states on the midterm elections.
The polling for the vulnerable Democrats was so close — two points apart — that they were afraid the announcement could “put it over the cliff.” Additionally, there was growing sentiment that the president would be blamed if they lost and even if the senators won, he might not be able to count on their support for his eventual actions after the election…
“It absolutely helps,” a staffer for a red state Democrat up for reelection told BuzzFeed News Saturday of the announcement…
“They had that polling data for months and were hoping it would shift,” [Chris Newman, the legal director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON),] said. “It appears that everything they did was designed to elicit an overreaction from Republicans and wasn’t intended to get something done. It looks like they pushed the timeline back as a carrot to get Republicans to threaten impeachment and a government shutdown.”
Obama advisers were not convinced that any presidential action would affect the elections. But the officials said the discussions around timing grew more pronounced within the past few weeks.
Ultimately, the advisers drew a lesson from 1994 when Democratic losses were blamed on votes for gun-control legislation, undermining any interest in passing future gun measures.
White House officials said aides realized that if Obama’s immigration action was deemed responsible for Democratic losses this year, it could hurt any attempt to pass a broad overhaul later on.
“To wait nine more weeks means that I must again look my mother in the eye and see the fear she has about living under the threat of deportation every day,” said Cristina Jimenez, director of United We Dream, an advocacy group.
“But Dreamers will not soon forget the president and Democrats’s latest failure and their attempts to fool the Latino community, and we remain resolute in fighting for justice for our families,” Jimenez added…
Staunch immigration activist and director of America’s Voice, Frank Sharry tore into Obama for the delay, calling it a bitter disappointment.
“We advocates didn’t make the reform promise; we just made the mistake of believing it,” Sharry said. “The President and Senate Democrats have chosen politics over people; the status quo over solving real problems.”
“It is hard to believe this litany of high expectations and broken promises will be mended by the end of the year,” he said.
“In a breathtakingly harsh and short sighted political miscalculation, immigrant families were sacrificed today,” said Deepak Bhargava of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM). “Make no mistake – this delay will have tragic consequences for the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who will be ripped from one another’s arms in the coming weeks and months. A delay of weeks may not seem like a lot to a politician in DC, but it is everything to a child who will lose his or her parents in that time.”…
Others said the delay only further raises the expectations for the executive order that Obama has promised to deliver by the end of the year.
“There is going to be a lot of skepticism about whether he will actually do it,” said Angela Kelley, an immigration strategist at the Center for American Progress. “He will have to present a pretty strong, convincing case that the issue isn’t going to be left at the altar yet again.”
Republicans are predictably angry. They say that if Obama intends to make a major change in deportation policy, he should do it now, so that the voters have a chance to weigh in on it. “What’s so cynical about today’s immigration announcement is that the president isn’t saying he’ll follow the law, he’s just saying he’ll go around the law once it’s too late for Americans to hold his party accountable in the November elections,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, said. “This is clearly not decision-making designed around the best policy.”…
But one progressive operative I consulted had a slightly different take—equally angry about the decision, but convinced that the real mistake was months and years ago, when Obama declined to act unilaterally (as advocates urged then) because he was waiting to see if he could coax House Republicans to join their Senate counterparts in backing reform.
“Obama’s longstanding refusal to accept that House Republicans were never close to moving on immigration created this unnecessary perceived (false) choice between electoral politics and good policy,” this operative told me. “Obama could have done right by immigration policy last winter, and his credulous delays (‘Boehner might yet deliver!’) since then do little to disabuse cynics of the view that his presidency has been marred by deep naiveté about the modern GOP.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Saturday swiftly criticized President Barack Obama’s decision to hold off on executive action on immigration until after the November elections – declaring that the move “smacks of raw politics.”
In a statement, the House’s top Republican said there is never a “right” time for Obama to sidestep Congress on immigration and “declare amnesty by executive action.”
“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 said. “The American people deserve honesty, transparency, and accountability – and any unilateral action will only further strain the bonds of trust between the White House and the people they are supposed to serve.”
Opinion of Obama among Hispanic voters has vacillated between support and disillusionment at various points in his presidency, and this decision is likely to renew the criticism that he’s been a big tease.
At the same time, it isn’t necessarily clear that this non-action will dampen the enthusiasm of the GOP base. Republicans can still argue that Obama made a political decision to delay action, but he will do so right after the election — which is why voters need send him a message by making sure that his party loses control of the Senate. The move also may energize conservative activists who sense weakness and see regaining the Senate as an opportunity to effectively end the Obama presidency.
As for the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform, there is simply no way that it will happen during the Obama presidency regardless of whether Democrats maintain control of the Senate. The best chance that liberals had for comprehensive immigration reform was actually when President Bush was pushing it and there was enough Republican support to get it across the finish line if Democrats broadly went along. But they didn’t want to give that victory to a weak Republican president, especially when the prospect of regaining power and getting a better deal was so close.
Republicans shouldn’t let them get away with this transparent dodge. There is a way to expose Democratic Senate candidates’ pro-illegal immigration stances, and, as usual, Jeff Sessions shows the way. The House has passed a bill blocking implementation of any executive amnesty, and Ted Cruz has introduced that legislation in the Senate. But Harry Reid, naturally, refuses to bring Cruz’s measure up for a vote. The question that should be asked of every Democratic candidate for the Senate is: will you demand that Harry Reid allow a vote on the Cruz bill to block implementation of executive orders granting amnesty to illegal immigrants?…
Not one Senate Democrat wants to prevent unconstitutional orders on immigration from taking effect, nor does a single Democratic candidate for the Senate. This is a powerful issue that will give the Republicans control over the Senate in November, if GOP candidates are smart enough to explain to voters what the Dems are up to.
[I]n fact, the midterms should still be a referendum on Obama’s lawless immigration plans, if only the Stupid Party leadership had any sense. After all, from the standpoint of democratic governance, a lawless amnesty decree is bad enough, but openly saying you’re going to issue such a decree only after the people have had a chance to vote is much worse. Every Republican candidate in the House and Senate needs to make clear that, whatever your views on the substance of immigration policy, a vote for any Democrat is a vote for caesarism, for presidential rule by decree. There’s actually a good deal of support for that on the hard left, but most people, of all descriptions, recoil from Obama’s promised power grab.
Note that it’s a “promised” power grab; the AP report notes “the officials said Obama had no specific timeline to act, but that he still would take his executive steps before the end of the year.” So this isn’t some teabagger conspiracy fantasy, but a promise to decree sweeping extra-constitutional changes to the law, but just to do it around Thanksgiving or Christmas to avoid electoral fallout. So, despite the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments from the anti-borders crowd, the GOP must not let the Democrats off the hook.