President Obama asked the Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, in March to review the administration’s immigration enforcement policies. He was under pressure from immigrant advocates, who were frustrated at Congress’ inaction on reform and implored him to act on his own to end or slow the pace of deportations. Now he’s backing off and asking Mr. Johnson to delay the review.
Mr. Obama has deported more people more quickly than any other president. His promise to look for ways to make his deportation machinery “more humane” was a delaying action. He now wants to give Congress one more chance to work out compromise legislation, and he doesn’t want to give Republicans any excuse to block it.
There is something ridiculous about the President’s fear of halting a legislative process that has been motionless for nearly a year. And it’s infuriating for him to insist that doing more through executive action to protect families is impossible or too politically dangerous.
The failure on the federal front is not all Mr. Obama’s fault. House Republicans were handed a historic opportunity when the Senate passed an ambitious reform package last June.
But House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio refuses to bring it to a vote. He and his caucus have spent the past year spewing excuses for inaction, starting with the claim that they don’t trust Mr. Obama to enforce the law.
Some immigrant rights groups have sided with Mr. Obama’s latest delaying tactic. They urged him this week to “move cautiously” and give House leaders “all of the space they may need to bring legislation to the floor for a vote.”
It is hard not to be skeptical of the President’s oft-repeated, oft-failed strategy of waiting for Republican lawmakers to do their jobs. Their party does not seem ready to embrace immigrants, to hand a domestic policy triumph to a president they hate, or to put the country and the will of the people ahead of narrow political interests.
Other immigration advocates say Congress’ July 4 recess is make-or-break time. If House Republicans haven’t shown willingness to move a bill by then, summer lassitude and fall electoral politics will take over, the moment will vanish, and the job of fixing the system will fall to the next Congress and president, or the next, or the next.
Even July is too long a wait for thousands of would-be Americans who would qualify for legal status under the stalled reform. Instead they live in fear of being torn from their families as the Obama Administration keeps on deporting people, figuring that after 2 million deportations, give or take, what’s a few thousand more?