If Republicans block immigration reform, the White House is signaling that it may act on his own to curtail deportations of people in the country illegally.
President Barack Obama conveyed that message to leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a private meeting on Thursday, informing them that he has ordered a review of immigration enforcement practices.
“The President emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system,” the White House said in a statement. “He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law.”
The message was reiterated by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Democratic senator, in a public Facebook post on Friday.
“It’s crystal clear where the issue of immigration reform is headed, and Republicans have only two choices to make,” he said. “They can either help pass comprehensive reform … or they can sit idly by and watch the President greatly curtail deportations while 11 million continue to live in limbo here in America.”
The announcement comes as Obama faces enormous pressure from the Hispanic community to act if Congress won’t. The White House’s statement made clear Obama prefers legislative action: “[He] expressed his strong desire” to Hispanic Caucus leaders “to work together to put pressure on Congressional Republicans to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible.”
The administration acted on its own in 2012 to halt deportations for qualified immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. The latest signals are that it may go further.
The comments are likely to ruffle feathers among Republicans, who have spent much of this week attacking Obama for taking actions via executive authority amid congressional gridlock.