President Obama has delayed a review of deportation policies until the end of summer in hopes that Congress will approve a legislative overhaul of immigration laws, administration officials said Tuesday.
Obama instructed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to continue his review, but the results will not be announced before lawmakers take their summer recess in August, officials said. The White House is concerned that Republicans would balk if the administration takes unilateral action to stem the deportation of undocumented immigrants, ending any slim remaining hopes of a legislative compromise.
"While the review is ongoing, the president believes there is an opportunity for congressional action this summer and has asked Secretary Johnson to hold on releasing any results from his review while this window for congressional action remains open," said one administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal decision-making. The Associated Press first reported the White House's decision to delay the review.
A separate White House official said Obama's priority is "to enact a permanent solution for people currently living in the shadows and that can only come with immigration reform ... He believes there’s a window for the House to get immigration reform done this summer."
Obama announced the review this spring under escalating pressure from immigration advocates to use his executive authority to stem deportations. The president said Johnson would seek to make policies more "humane," though Obama cautioned that he did not have authority to expand a 2012 executive action that halted deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Johnson has been meeting with stakeholders. He said this month he was looking to potentially make changes to a program called "Secure Communities," which is designed to have local law enforcement officials turn over undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation proceedings. Immigration advocates have said the program has targeted immigrants arrested for less serious crimes, while supporters of the program said it targets violent criminals and repeat offenders.
Some advocates have called on Obama to move quickly to relieve pressure on the undocumented. But others who support immigration reform have said they fear the House GOP would accuse Obama of failing to enforce existing law and use that as a reason not to support legislative reform.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he supports immigration reform but will not allow a vote on a comprehensive bill approved by the Senate last year. Boehner said the House would pursue smaller, piecemeal bills if Obama restores trust among the rank-and-file Republicans.