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President Obama: I’ll act on my own on immigration

WASHINGTON — In the face of an unyielding Congress, President Barack Obama
said Monday he will no longer wait for Republicans to act on immigration and
will move on his own to make policy changes in what has been a top second-term
priority of his presidency.

Obama said he will refocus immigration enforcement onto a Mexican border that
has seen a tide of children crossing illegally from Central America. That means
putting resources into deporting people who are the most recent border-crossers
or individuals who pose a threat to public safety and national security.

“I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue,
and Congress chooses to do nothing,” Obama said. “And in this situation, the
failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s
bad for our economy and it’s bad for our future.”

Obama said he decided to bypass Congress after House speaker John Boehner
informed him last week that the House would not vote on an immigration overhaul
this year. A congressional leadership aide said Obama and Boehner spoke
privately before an event last week at the white House honoring U.S. golfers who
won last year’s Presidents Cup,

Obama said there are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House to pass an
immigration bill today, and says he would sign it.

But Obama said he’s waited for more than a year to give Boehner space to act.

Obama said the thousands of unaccompanied children showing up on the border
underscore the need to drop the politics and act on immigration.

Obama’s decision effectively declares that a broad based change in immigration
policy is dead for the year, and perhaps for the remainder of his
administration. Changing immigration laws and providing a path to citizenship
for about 11 million immigrants in the country illegally has been one Obama’s
top priorities as he sought to conclude his presidency with major second-term

Obama’s ability to undertake changes on his own is limited.

He is instructing Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson and
Attorney General Eric Holder to present him with executive actions he can take
without congressional approval by the end of the summer.

Still, in responding to the influx of unaccompanied children, Obama plans to
concentrate immigration resources on the border areas. The move will effectively
further reduce the number of deportations in the country’s interior by stressing
enforcement action on individuals who are either recent unlawful border crossers
or who present a national security, public safety, or border security threat.

The decision coincides with a White House request to Congress for new powers to
deport newly arrived immigrant children traveling without their parents.

As such, Obama’s actions represent a delicate balancing act between responding
to what the White House has called a “humanitarian crisis” over unaccompanied
children and a demand from immigration activists to reduce the administration’s
record number of deportations.

Deportations have spiked under the Obama administration to a total of around 2
million so far — the same number removed during the full eight years of the Bush
administration. At the same time, formal removals from the interior have
decreased each year of the Obama administration, while the number of
deportations from the border has increased.

The Obama administration also has taken steps already to focus deportations on
people with more serious criminal records or those who pose a threat. But this
so-called “prosecutorial discretion,” while harshly criticized by Republicans,
never succeeded in calming concerns in immigrant communities about how
deportations are conducted.

Obama on Monday was dropping by a meeting at the White House among immigration
overhaul advocates and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Obama senior adviser
Valerie Jarrett. Many of those advocates reacted harshly to Obama’s plan Monday
to seek emergency money from Congress that would, among other things, help
conduct “an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and
repatriation of recent border crossers.”


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