President Barack Obama is developing plans to use executive action to let millions of undocumented immigrants obtain work permits that would allow them stay in the U.S. legally, said a Democratic Senate aide.
White House officials have told allies in Congress to expect an announcement of a large-scale action most likely in September, just before the midterm congressional elections, the aide said, asking for anonymity to discuss an unannounced plan.
Obama has said he’ll act in the absence of legislation from Congress on the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. In the House, Republican leaders have declined to bring a bill to a vote.
Administration officials in private conversations in recent weeks have been signaling a shift within the White House toward more expansive action to provide relief from deportation, according to immigration advocates.
“One thing that seems clear is that they are seriously committed to using the full extent of their legal authority to start fixing the system,” said Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington policy research group with closes ties to the White House. “That includes doing as much as possible to enable undocumented individuals with significant equities who have committed no serious crimes to come forward, register, undergo background checks and request temporary status.”
The action on immigration is being planned concurrently with the president’s vow to return to their home countries the thousands of minor children who have come crossed Mexico and into the U.S. from Central America in recent months.
The plan was reported yesterday by the Associated Press.
The humanitarian crisis on the border and the stalemate in Congress give Obama “broad permission to take what executive action we can to try to deal with the broken immigration system,” senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters July 25.
While White House officials have told lawmakers that the presidential action will cover at least several million immigrants and could range higher, they haven’t provided a clear picture of which categories of immigrants would be protected from deportation, the Senate aide said.
White House officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Advocates and lawmakers have discussed a range of potential presidential actions to offer temporary relief from the threat of deportation to classes of immigrants in the country illegally. Obama issued an order in 2012 to stop deportations of immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.
One proposal that has gained support from some Democratic senators would expand that order to include immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens, which would mean protecting 4.4 million adults from deportation, according to a January report by the National Foundation for American Policy, a Virginia-based research group that focuses on immigration among other issues. Another proposal would also include the parents of immigrants who arrived as children.
New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat, in March called for a halt to deportations for a larger group of immigrants, covering all those who would be allowed to say under the Obama-backed immigration legislation that the Senate passed last year. That measure, opposed by House Republican leaders, would create a path to citizenship for many of the 12 million undocumented workers in the U.S.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, informed Obama last month that the House wouldn’t vote on the legislation. Some congressional Republicans say the measure amounts to amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
What little momentum advocates in the House had was killed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary election loss in Virginia on June 10. Cantor was branded by challenger David Brat, who was backed by the limited-government Tea Party movement, as someone who had lost touch with his district and favored amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
Pfeiffer said Obama asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to examine what executive actions could be taken on immigration and report back to him “by the end of summer.”
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