Possible Exec Order Puts Immigration on Political Showdown Agenda

Deportation deferralImmigration reform might move forward this week as press reports out of Washington D.C. say President Obama is considering putting his signature on an executive order that would help millions avoid deportation (much like 2012’s DACA executive order), provide work authorization and otherwise tweak policy to address shortcomings in federal immigration law. While executive action will likely be considered inflammatory by some, political pundits say the president has nothing left to lose, and that his stand on immigration represents bucking against settling into the lame-duck duration of his presidency.

Outcomes of the midterm 2014 elections just a couple of weeks ago brought Democrats a resounding defeat, giving Republicans a wider margin in the U.S. House of Representatives and bringing GOP ownership to the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. And while House Speaker John Boehner and likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have each warned against unilateral action on the president’s part, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill are doing their best to fan the flames of progress.

“Immigrant communities have waited too long for House Republicans to catch up with the American public’s support for comprehensive immigration reform,” according to a report on a letter to the president from Democratic leaders. The letter, signed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sens. Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez, Patty Murray and Michael Bennett goes on to say “We strongly support your plan to improve as much of the immigration system as you can within your legal authority, and will stand behind you to support changes to keep families together while continuing to enforce our immigration laws in a way that protects our national security and public safety.”

For Republicans, any talk surrounding immigration seems to bring up an uncomfortable set of realities. While Democrats were soundly spanked in the most recent elections, pundits say Republicans mustn’t presume the party holds particular affinity for voters. After harsh Republican defeats in 2012, the GOP took a hard look at itself to determine those issues where it is most disconnected from the electorate.

Central among the findings was that the GOP needs to get behind some sort of comprehensive reform—if only to get the issue of the table. In short, Republicans consistently fall well short of Democrats in gaining a share of the critical Hispanic vote. Moving past immigration reform lets Republicans open the door to other topics of conversation with these voters. Failure to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform, the GOP report says, means the “Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”