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Morning Plum: Pressure mounts on Obama over deportations

This week, the moral case for immigration reform made by evangelical and other religious groups is likely to draw national attention. That’s because key figures from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are set to tour the border in Nogales, Ariz., and celebrate a Mass for those who have died crossing the border — highlighting Congress’s continued failure to act in the face of what has become a humanitarian crisis.

However, while such action is meant to increase pressure on Republicans to act, amplification of the moral case for reform will inevitably increase pressure on President Obama to act unilaterally on another aspect of this crisis — deportations.

The bishops conference has now written a letter to the Obama administration urging action to ease deportations. With the Department of Homeland Security currently reviewing ways of making deportation policy more humane, the conference reiterates its preference for a legislative solution but lays out a number of ways it says DHS could act legally to mitigate its impact.

Among them: Expand prosecutorial discretion to factor in people’s family ties in de-prioritizing deportation. Make more aggressive efforts to prioritize those undocumented immigrants who are top offenders over lower-level ones. Reform deportation policies so they are safer, such as ending night-time deportations. Improve procedures for notifying those detained of their rights.

“As pastors who witness the human consequences of our broken immigration system every day, we are deeply troubled by the division of families caused by current immigration enforcement policies,” the bishops write. “In this regard, we urge you to take steps within your authority to limit these deportations in a way that protects immigrants who are no threat to the community…the record number of deportations separating families is a moral crisis which must be addressed.”

This comes as Obama has revealed that one topic he discussed with Pope Francis was immigration.

The bishops conference’s basic idea here is to offer Obama a template for temporary action to make deportation more humane that falls short of the farther-reaching executive moves — granting work permits, for instance — many advocates want. The theory is that less ambitious measures could be implemented without giving Republicans an easy way to cite Obama’s lawlessness as an excuse for further inaction, scuttling legislative reform entirely.

However, this is another reminder that for Republicans, the window to act on reform may be closing fast. If Republicans don’t act by the August recess, the pressure on Obama to take some sort of action may prove overwhelming, not just from advocates but also from Congressional Dems who will likely speak out more forcefully. It seems plausible that any action taken by Obama, even if it falls well short of what advocates want, could set off a backlash among Republicans that will make legislative action later this year harder than it already is. Meanwhile, for a variety of reasons, acting may become even more difficult for Republicans next year. And so it’s perfectly possible that if Republicans don’t act in the next few months, they could be heading into another presidential election without having fixed their Latino problem.


* PERCENTAGE OF UNINSURED DROPS YET AGAIN: The Los Angeles Times’ Noam Levey has a terrific breakdown of the 9.5 million people who are now covered under Obamacare, including this newsworthy tidbit:

Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport said that March polling, which has not been released yet, indicates the uninsured rate has declined further. “While it is important to be cautious, the logical conclusion is that the law is having an effect,” he said.

This will be the fourth Gallup survey to show this, and while it’s best to reserve judgment about what this means for the law’s long term prospects, each additional finding bolsters the possibility that Obamacare is the reason for the decline.

* REPUBLICANS DENY REALITY OF OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT: With enrollment now over six million, Jonathan Cohn has a must-read documenting how Republicans are  pretending that metrics indicating the law is mostly on track as intended simply don’t exist, because there’s just no way that could possibly be true. The contrast with proponents of the law advising caution about its long term prospects is striking:

Everybody should be cautious about making firm pronouncements about how the Affordable Care Act is doing. But right now it’s not the Administration making the most preposterously definitive claims about the law’s success or failure. It’s [Ted] Cruz, [John] Barrasso, and all the other hard-core Obamacare opponents on the right.

Reminder: Last week’s Kaiser poll found that only Republicans think the law should be repealed, and only Republicans think the debate over the law should continue.

* OBAMACARE WEBSITE DOWN AGAIN: The news is breaking this morning that the federal website is down again for maintenance, and judging by the twitters, the law’s foes are gleeful.

No doubt this will lead to another deserved spate of bad press for the law. But it’s worth remembering the larger pattern here: As enrollment climbs ever higher, getting close to original targets despite the website’s initial failure, certainty among Republicans is only deepening that the law is a disaster and that the public wants more repeal votes.

* THE REAL OBAMACARE PROBLEM DEMS FACE: Politico’s David Nather gets this right: Dems have come to realize that the real problem they face is that the law revs up the GOP base far more than the Dem one, meaning the right response is to get more aggressive in attacking Republicans over the consequences of repeal, to give Dems a reason to vote.

This is what Paul Begala and David Axelrod have advised, and you’re already seeing it in the latest Senate Majority PAC ad attacking GOP Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land hard over her repeal stance.

* WHY REPUBLICANS HAVE A LOCK ON THE HOUSE: The Associated Press has an interesting look at how Republicans have made their House majority more or less invulnerable for now, through a combination of redrawing districts that are total safe zones for incumbents and population patterns that have redistributed Dems into urban areas, packing them into fewer districts.

Result: With most House Republicans insulated from broader currents of national opinion (and Dems defending Senate seats in seven red states) Republicans could win big this fall while doing nothing to broaden the party’s appeal to the diversifying national electorate.

* LATINOS SOURING ON POLITICAL PROCESS: Jackie Calmes has a sobering report on how organizers are finding that many Latinos are showing a reluctance to register to vote, thanks in part to the failure of immigration reform:

Across the country, immigrant-rights advocates report mounting disillusionment with both parties among Latinos, enough to threaten recent gains in voting participation that have reshaped politics to Democrats’ advantage nationally, and in states like Colorado with significant Latino populations.

This will probably be seized on by advocates and Dems who want Obama to somehow act unilaterally to ease or slow deportations — action would, in theory, re-galvanize this core Dem constituency.

* THE MYTH OF THE SKILLS GAP: Paul Krugman on how the Very Serious People know, just know, that a primary reason for mass joblessness is workers lacking skills, even though the evidence shows that this isn’t the real reason at all. The consequences:

Instead of focusing on the way disastrously wrongheaded fiscal policy and inadequate action by the Federal Reserve have crippled the economy and demanding action, important people piously wring their hands about the failings of American workers. Moreover, by blaming workers for their own plight, the skills myth shifts attention away from the spectacle of soaring profits and bonuses even as employment and wages stagnate. Of course, that may be another reason corporate executives like the myth so much.

* AND REPORT WARNS OF DIRE CLIMATE CONSEQUENCES: The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a new report warning of the potential consequences of failing to act to curb carbon emissions, including: Threats to coastal communities; putting the world’s food supply at risk; and more violent conflict over resources. With Congress refusing to act here, this the report’s bright spot:

Since the intergovernmental panel issued its last big report in 2007, it has found growing evidence that governments and businesses around the world are making extensive plans to adapt to climate disruptions, even as some conservatives in the United States and a small number of scientists continue to deny that a problem exists.

This could give Obama more momentum for bold executive action on climate, and is a reminder that acting in this area may be one of the most consequential aspects of his legacy.

What else?