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House Republicans have had a year to act on an immigration overhaul and have refused, trying to pin the blame for their inaction and obstruction on everything from the announcement of a national monument in New Mexico to the conflict in Syria. While House Republicans have refused to vote on the Senate’s immigration bill or a House alternative measure, they nonetheless have found time to vote and pass an amendment from Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to defund the DACA program and subject DREAMers to deportation. As we approach the one year anniversary of the first King amendment vote – taken on June 6, 2013 – chances are increasingly grim that House Republicans will take advantage of the best chance we’ve had to enact immigration reform in a generation.
The reactions to the President’s announcement yesterday that he plans to delay any executive were hardly encouraging. Speaker of the House John Boehner, who continues to traffic in weak excuses and show little willingness to stand up to the Steve King wing of the party, reacted to the President’s announcement by having his spokesperson blast the President for “playing politics” on immigration enforcement. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, running scared against an underfunded primary challenger, continues to cower to the anti-immigrant crowd and boast of his role in blocking immigration reform. And House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) reacted to the news that the President was giving the House more time to act by stating, “It’s completely inappropriate for the president to threaten Congress that he will unconstitutionally act on his own if Congress doesn’t produce a bill to his political liking within his own made-up timeframe.”
Meanwhile, immigrant leaders and advocates have reacted with anger and frustration to the announced DHS delay, with many highlighting the toll on families that will likely be incurred during the additional weeks under the immigration enforcement status quo. As the New York Times writes in a blistering editorial, “Even July is too long a wait for thousands of would-be Americans who would qualify for legal status under the stalled reform. Instead, they live in fear of being torn from their families, as the Obama administration keeps on deporting people, figuring that after two million deportations, give or take, what’s a few thousand more?”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
House Republicans have but a few weeks before the window of opportunity to move immigration reform shuts. Not only is time in short supply, but their actions mean hope is in short supply, too. Meanwhile, the White House move to keep the focus on the House Republicans has backfired, putting more attention and pressure on their own inaction. As a result, the pressure for them to go big and go bold has increased dramatically. If President Obama waits until the summer to announce minor tweaks at DHS, it will be met with faint praise and much anger. If House Republicans continue to slow-walk legislative reform to death, the onus will be him to wring every ounce of executive authority he can to muster to deliver on broad affirmative relief – protection against deportation and work authorization – for millions of low-priority immigrants who would qualify for legal status and citizenship under bipartisan legislation already passed by the Senate.