At a recent White House law enforcement event, President Barack Obama took the opportunity to pressure Republicans in the House of Representatives to present an immigration reform bill this summer in advance of the November mid-term elections.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made comments supportive of immigration reform and issued a “statement of principles” developed by House Republican leadership addressing immigration reform in January. As reported by the Cincinnati Inquirer, the Speaker was careful earlier this month to distinguish that proposed roadmap to legal status for some illegal aliens from an outright amnesty. “I reject that premise. … If you come in and plead guilty and pay a fine, that’s not amnesty,” he said. Regardless of how reform measures are characterized, though, patience is flagging and significant progress remains stubbornly elusive.
The President’s comments on immigration reform, while also asking his secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, to delay releasing details of a recent study on the country’s deportation system, were seen as giving lawmakers time to propose and debate new legislation, but continuing to hold out the threat of an executive order should Congress fail to act. Activists on the left are pressuring the President to act. They urge an executive order similar to the one issued in 2012 extending temporary status and work authorization to some unauthorized aliens brought to the U.S. as children. The new measure for example, could extend the same type of protection to parents of those children, advocates contend.
Nearly two million illegal immigrants have been deported since the President took office, according to a New York Times review and official records. The President asked the DHS secretary to evaluate how to make the deportation system more humane. Further executive action on immigration may spur additional controversy and make comprehensive immigration reform negotiations in Congress more difficult.
An example of this type of challenge is in seen in the obstacles besetting the bi-partisan “ENLIST Act“(H.R. 2377), a bill designed to extend legal permanent residence to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and who enlist in the U.S. armed forces. Hopes for easy passage have been set back. Contrary to the expectations of many supporters, including the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), the measure was not taken up for discussion as part of the annual defense bill. This is discouraging for proponents of reform. Political brinksmanship, rather than a genuine willingness address the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system, appears to be the order of the day.