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The Morning Plum: On immigration, Obama is in a jam

The White House announced late yesterday that the administration will undertake a review of its deportation policies to determine ways of making it more humane. Absent further details, it’s hard to know what this will amount to. It does seem clear that officials are feeling the effects of outside pressure to act to ease deportations, which has increased in recent weeks from Democratic lawmakers and Latino media alike.

At the same time, though, there appear to be clear limits on what this internal review will accomplish. Note this nugget buried in the New York Times write-up:

White House officials said late Thursday that the president would not suspend deportations because his advisers did not believe such a move would be legal. He also will not expand his 2012 order to defer deportations of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as young children, aides said.

Whatever the White House’s internal review turns up, if deportations are not eased, the outside pressure for executive action will only increase. And all of this underscores that Obama is really in a jam on this issue.

The problem is that, with Republicans continually citing Obama’s supposed unwillingness to enforce immigration laws as their excuse for inaction on legislative reform, the White House cannot aggressively rebut these charges without drawing attention to the record deportations on his watch, because that will further anger Latinos, a core Democratic constituency.

At the same time, the longer House Republicans use “distrust of Obama” as their excuse for stalling on reform, the more intense the pressure on Obama to act unilaterally will get. And as immigration advocates and Latino media shift the focus to Obama, that risks reducing political pressure on Republicans. By announcing the internal review, while also stressing no executive action to slow deportations will take place, the White House is seeking to ease pressure on Obama and refocus it on Republicans.

Frank Sharry, the head of pro-immigration America’s Voice, suggests a way out. Putting aside the debate over whether Obama has the authority to ease deportations — which is inconclusive, though theoretically he may be able to do something — Sharry dismisses concerns that acting will reduce pressure on the GOP. He emails:

It’s not like the GOP gets a pass. They suck and Latinos know it, deeply and profoundly. If Obama acts boldly (big if), then Obama and Dems get all the credit. Republicans sputter about the imperial presidency — further defining themselves as hostile to Latinos — and then Dems get to run on a platform of “elect us and un-elect Republicans and we’ll finish the job the president started.” I see acting as leaving Republicans on the outside looking in and making a mistake of historic proportions. Obama will be the great emancipator instead of the deporter-in-chief.

Worth thinking about.

* HOUSE GOP LEADERS MUM ON UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Senators have reached a deal to renew the federal unemployment benefits program through the end of May and retroactively back to December. But the Post’s Paul Kane observes:

Its outcome in the House remains up in the air, however. Speaker John A. Boehner, who has opposed previous Senate plans as insufficient in providing offsetting cuts, did not offer a statement on the new proposal.

With Senate passage all but assured, House Republicans will have to decide whether to pass it or to kill it — either by denying it a vote or voting it down. In other words, Republicans will not be able to avoid the issue.

* WHY SCOTT BROWN MAY RUN FOR SENATE: In the wake of news that the former Massachusetts Senator is taking serious steps towards running for Senate in New Hampshire, Politico explains the thinking:

The declining popularity of President Barack Obama and his health care law have emboldened Brown…Internal polls for the GOP have shown a tight race, but more recent public polls have shown Shaheen expanding her lead. She would certainly start with an edge in the head-to-head matchup.

Shaheen has expanded her lead in public polls even as Americans for Prosperity has hammered her with anti-Obamacare ads. But Republicans — armed with their private polls — are making headway in persuading Brown to run, and they’re almost certainly pointing to the Florida special election outcome to buttress their case.

* WHAT THE SCOTT BROWN RUN MEANS: NBC’s First Read crew explains (no link yet):

If Brown does run, that would further expand the Senate map for Republicans, forcing Democrats to have to spend more money to defend another incumbent and increasing the GOP’s margin of error in other contests to net the six Senate seats needed to win back the U.S. Senate. Think about it: To get to six seats, Republicans could mostly run the red-state table of Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Or they could lose a couple of those and win instead in Colorado, Michigan, or New Hampshire.

Right. The flip side is that if Republicans don’t meaningfully expand the map beyond the seven core red state battlegrounds, they will have to win six of them to take back the Senate.

* BUT DO REPUBLICANS THINK BROWN CAN WIN? Mike Allen casts doubt on the idea:

Top Republicans tells us that the biggest effect of Brown’s entry will be to put Colorado more in play, because Dems won’t have enough money to saturate all these battlegrounds.

Hmmm…Dems won’t have the money? I guess we’ll see. They are certainly are getting outspent by Americans For Prosperity right now…

* KOCH BROTHERS HIT WITH FALSE ATTACKS: I reported here yesterday on a new Dem ad hammering the GOP Senate candidate in Louisiana by tying him to the Koch brothers, which is part of a larger strategy designed to cast Republican candidates as willing enablers of a plutocratic agenda. In fairness, though, the ad seems to go too far. Glenn Kessler takes a look at one of its key claims — that the Koch brothers support tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas — and finds that it falls apart under scrutiny.

Meanwhile, see Kevin Drum on the larger political context around the Dem attacks on the Kochs, and on the eternal frustration of Dems that voters don’t seem to take the GOP’s actual priorities and agenda seriously.

* WHAT DID FL-13 REALLY TELL US? Mike Tomasky has a very good piece detailing that Dem Alex Sink might have fared worse if she had not aggressively rebutted attacks on Obamacare by calling for keeping and fixing the law, and attacking GOPer David Jolly’s repeal stance, in a way that helped with independents. Sink lost because Dems didn’t turn out, but here’s the lesson:

There’s a lot for Democrats to worry about. But in most of the contested states — not Louisiana, probably not Arkansas, but the others — they can make Obamacare a net wash if they can be clear about the implications of “repeal” and call out their GOP opponents on “replace.” And maybe as a bonus show they have some fight in them, and give those unmotivated young and Latino voters some good reasons to go to the polls.

And we’ve already seen that GOP Senate candidates in Michigan and North Carolina are struggling to explain their stance when confronted with the true implications of their repeal position.

* AND THE CHART OF THE DAY, PERSECUTED MILLIONAIRES EDITION: CNN brings the chart demonstrating that the number of millionaires in the United States is now approaching 10 million, an all time high. It’s another sign that the wealthy don’t seem to be doing all that badly amid the sputtering recovery. Also: Kenyan Muslim Eat-the-Rich Socialism!

What else?