Since the crisis on the southern border began to generate a significant amount of attention from the political press, the media has been as focused on President Barack Obama and his approach to the present situation as they have been on Republicans. In spite of the dubious nature of this claim, the president has benefited from his effort to cast the present crisis as an outgrowth of the failure of House Republicans to pass a comprehensive immigration reform plan.
The media’s instinct to somehow cast congressional Republicans as key figures in the current crisis culminated on Tuesday in the release of a Washington Post/ABC News poll which inexplicably asked voters for their opinions on how the Republicans in Congress were handling the border crisis. Republicans, powerless as they are to do anything about an acute crisis and who have suffered in the polls against the president since his election in 2008, unsurprisingly received lower marks from the public than did the president. With that, the blame for the present situation and the onus to address it shifted perceptibly away from the president.
But Beltway reporters are still doing their jobs, and those who do their work in the Capitol and the White House rather than the television studio know that the president is more vexed by the members of his own party rather than Republicans.
“The ebb of migrations into the country came as a growing number of congressional Democrats are opposed to weakening legal protections for young children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America, making it less likely that Congress can agree on a deal to address the crisis before lawmakers leave Washington for a five-week summer recess,” The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and Juliet Eilperin reported on Thursday.
They noted that the White House’s only proposed solution to the present crisis is the prerequisite demand that Congress pass a $3.7 billion package aimed at speeding up asylum and deportation hearings for illegal immigrants crossing the southern border.
“But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — a key bloc on immigration issues — came together Wednesday to oppose the idea,” the report continued. “The growing opposition among Democrats will make it more difficult for the GOP-led House and the Democratic-run Senate to reach an accord before Congress leaves Aug. 1 for its annual summer break.”
Democrats are also leery of amending a 2008 law aimed at curbing child trafficking, which many suspect has intensified the current influx of young migrants.
“Is the only immigration bill we’re going to have one that hurts children?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday.
The president is meeting with still more demands from members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, further constraining Obama’s ability to act.
According to Real Clear Politics reporter Alexis Simendinger, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) noted that his Caucus’ members are willing to support the expedited deportation of the current wave of immigrants crossing the border so long as each case receives current levels of due process. Hispanic Caucus members also pressured Obama to not break up families with undocumented members who have lived in the country for some time. Obama reportedly agreed to the request.
President Obama reassured members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Wednesday that he will flex his executive muscle later this year to be “as great and big and bold as he can be” to reduce deportations of undocumented immigrant families who have lived and worked in the United States for years, one Democratic lawmaker said at the conclusion of the meeting.
“We had an emotional meeting, but emotional in the sense that we were connected,” Gutierrez said to reporters following his meeting with the president. “We asked him to be our champion, we asked him to be a hero to our community, and he responded to us as a champion and as a hero, in my opinion.”
Obama has successfully walked the tightrope of pleasing all the members of his party in Congress, but the crisis on the border continues and nothing has been done just yet. It is unlikely that all of the president’s promises will be met if Congress adjourns for the August recess with the crisis on the border worsening.
While the president has spent most of time reframing the current crisis as part of a larger political struggle between him and Republicans in Congress, it is apparent that the members of the president’s party who are giving him the most headaches.