President Obama is coming under fire to do more with his executive power to slow record-level deportations of illegal immigrants now that immigration reform legislation is almost certainly dead until after the election.
But that’s a tough call for the president, since it would give ammunition to GOP critics who say they don’t trust he’ll enforce immigration laws.
Obama’s party benefitted handsomely in 2012 after Obama sidestepped Congress to halt deportations for some illegal immigrant youngsters. The move helped boost Hispanic turnout at the polls, and Obama carried more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to Pew Research exit polling.
In a midterm election year where Obama isn’t on the ballot and turnout by Hispanic voters is expected to be lower, however, it’s not a sure thing the same kind of tactics will benefit Democrats this year.
Calls for action are nonetheless taking place, with immigration reformers on and off Capitol Hill pressing Obama to expand the 2012 program targeting “Dreamers.”
“They can extend it [for current eligibles]; they can extend it to other people; they can extend it for a longer time. We’d like him to do it [all],” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, which backs immigration reform. “Yes, it will be controversial, but only with Republicans.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said recently that he hoped Obama would explore unilateral steps while still prioritizing a legislative package.
“I would hope that administratively, the president will do what he can to take a look at deportations, but he is being burdened by the law as it exists, and we need to change it,” Reid told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week.