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A Bad Day for Immigrants, One that Reduces Chances of Legislation and Raises the Stakes for Bold Executive Action

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Cantor Boasts of Blocking Reform, President Delays Administrative Relief

Two major developments yesterday serve to clarify the state of play on legislative and administrative immigration reform: 1) chances that House Republicans will move on immigration reform legislation were dealt a huge blow by Eric Cantor; and 2) the President’s announcement that the results of the DHS review are going to be delayed raises the stakes on the President to go bold and go big if and when he does announce executive action.  In the meantime, immigrants who would be eligible for relief under pending legislation or expected administrative action continue to get ripped away from their families and the country they now call home.

News broke yesterday that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s re-election campaign sent out mailers highlighting his role in “stopping the Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty.”  Facing a primary challenger from the right, and positioning himself to run for Speaker when Boehner steps down, Cantor is clearly more concerned about sucking up to anti-immigrant voters and reluctant members of Congress than delivering on a reform bill that could help save his party from its own demise.

Cantor’s campaign spokesperson is even admitting that his candidate is helping to block reform, noting of immigration advocates who have been protesting Cantor’s obstruction, “At least they have a legitimate beef because Eric has stopped comprehensive reform, and he is standing against the immigration [bill], so the criticism from the left makes a certain amount of sense.”  And Speaker of the House John Boehner, meanwhile, remains a weak leader, continuing to traffic in excuses for inaction and giving no indication of a willingness to stand up to the Steve King wing of the party and deliver a vote on reform.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Let’s state the obvious: House Republicans are on the verge of blocking the best chance we’ve had to enact immigration reform.  Clearly, Eric Cantor is spooked and John Boehner is weak.  There is an extremely narrow window for legislative action, and we should know by the end of June – if not earlier – if the House is planning to move anything before the window finally closes.

While yesterday’s announcement about the DHS review delay is surely meant to focus attention on House Republicans’ legislative inaction, it also ratchets up the pressure on President Obama to go big and bold on executive relief, when and if it becomes clear that the House GOP isn’t going to deliver on legislation.  In the interim, tens of thousands of needless deportations will likely take place, separating thousands of families like Zunu Zunaid’s and Jaime Rubio-Sulficio’s (whose heartbreaking stories have been detailed this week in the Washington Post and Seattle Times respectively).

Added Sharry:

The status quo is unacceptable and change can’t wait.  In light of the fact that American families are facing six more weeks of the immigration enforcement status quo, President Obama should direct Jeh Johnson to immediately appoint a DHS official to review cases of those in deportation proceedings and ensure that existing prosecutorial guidelines are used and no one who qualifies for citizenship under the Senate bill is deported due to inaction by Congress and delay by the Administration.  Holding out hope for the slim prospects for a legislative breakthrough over the next two months should not mean that additional families are split apart in the interim.

If the House GOP follows Cantor and fails to act, the President cannot and should not announce minor tweaks at DHS.  Instead, he needs to deliver on affirmative relief for the hundreds of thousands of families who still live in fear of deportation and being separated from their loved ones.  As we approach the two-year anniversary of the DACA program for DREAMers, President Obama should look to that initiative’s success as a foundation for broader reforms that make it crystal clear that if and when Republicans stop immigration reform, President Obama stepped in and used every ounce of executive authority to protect immigrants.

334 Days Since Senate Passed its Immigration Bill; 30 Days Left Until Window of Opportunity Closes