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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Despite continued deportations, the 2012 suspension of young people without legislation began the crebility issue for the administration: Immigration Impasse Could Rekindle Fight Over Deportations - House's Retreat on Legislation Puts Obama Administration in a Tight Spot

From The Wall Street Journal:

The House's retreat on immigration may produce an unintended ripple in the form of increased pressure on President Barack Obama to unilaterally stem his record-setting rate of deportations.

The matter has long been a source of tension between the Obama administration and many immigrant-rights groups. These groups, who are central to the liberal side of the immigration debate, are furious at the administration for deporting people who could legally stay in the U.S. under legislation that the president supports.

"The president can show the Republicans he is not waiting to bring the country in line with our national values," said B. Loewe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, among the most active groups pushing the White House. He said that while Mr. Obama has pressed for legislation, advocates wonder: "Is he a reformer or is he the deporter-in-chief."

His group filed a petition this past week formally requesting regulatory changes to halt deportations. The National Immigration Law Center also filed a memo to the administration suggesting a menu of legal options to ratchet down deportations.

The pressure puts the White House in a bind. If Mr. Obama chose to shift his position on deportations, he would anger the same Republicans he needs to make any final deal to revamp the immigration system. House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday cited a lack of faith among Republicans that the president would enforce any law they passed as one reason passing immigration legislation this year would be difficult.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.), who has surveyed most of his colleagues in trying to find consensus for an immigration bill, said unilateral action by the president on deportations "absolutely" would make a hard road even harder, regardless of the merits.

"This administration is seen as selectively enforcing the law," he said in an interview Friday. "It's a major part of the problem we have with passing immigration reform."

The White House responds by pointing to its aggressive work to secure the border. Since Mr. Obama took office, the Department of Homeland Security has tallied record annual deportations almost every year, with nearly 369,000 people removed last year. The administration emphasizes that it prioritizes apprehensions at the border and people with criminal records.

The issue will gain fresh attention this spring, when the Obama administration is expected to deport its two millionth person from the U.S., based on previously reported deportation rates. To mark the milestone, advocates plan a "national day of action" for April 5 with rallies in dozens of cities around the theme of "two million too many." And on Presidents Day this month, faith leaders plan a civil disobedience event at the White House to protest deportations.

Immigration advocates are divided on this approach, and those based in Washington in particular have kept a focus on Congress. "Inevitably more and more advocates will be calling on the president to step in to roll back" deportations, said Frank Sharry, who heads America's Voice, a group pressing for an immigration overhaul. He said this pressure is "a bit premature" and that advocates should continue to press Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The White House says Mr. Obama doesn't have the power to halt deportations on his own and that legislation is the only way to provide permanent relief to some 11.5 million people living in the U.S. illegally.

In November, Mr. Obama, responding to a heckler at an event in San Francisco, said, "If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so."

He gave a less definitive response a week ago when asked about deportations, saying that if it became clear an immigration bill wouldn't pass Congress this year, "I'm going to look at all options to make sure that we have a rational, smart system of immigration."

Advocates note that in 2012, the Obama administration suspended deportations of many young people who were brought to the U.S. as children. Before doing that, administration officials said they didn't have authority to do.

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