Executive Action to Lead Immigration Reform

Congressional InactionFrustrated by continued Congressional inaction to overhaul outdated immigration laws, President Barack Obama has said he will wield the presidential pen to take executive action toward reform. Reaching out to advisers, the president plans to have a course of action in place by the end of summer.

Although immigration reform is a topic Washington leadership has long promised to address, continual stalls around the issue are forcing the president’s hand. Several weeks ago, House Speaker Boehner told the president that no vote on immigration will occur this year. “They’re unwilling to stand up to the Tea Party and do what’s right for the country,” the president said.

The situation means the president is looking to color outside the lines, so to speak, as Obama is unapologetically looking to bypass lawmakers to ease deportation and to improve immigration processes. The president has asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to find those executive actions he can take without congressional approval.  President Obama expects to implement at least some of those actions by the end of summer.

DHS Secretary Johnson defines his role as finding ways to move forward with reform efforts while also working within the confines of existing laws. Whatever we do in the executive branch, we have to do within the confines of existing law. So we have a fair amount of discretion when it comes to how we prioritize our enforcement activities,” he said.

In the summer of 2012, President Obama put Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in play. Now, however, the undocumented immigrants for whom DACA is intended to help—DREAMers—are facing Republican calls to roll back the program.

The immigration reform stumbling blocks are more than political games, President Obama said.  “While I will continue to push Republicans to drop excuses and act,” Obama said, “Americans cannot wait forever for them to act.”