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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

The intended message will not be worth the price that will be paid: Deportation Review Creates Potential Conflict for Obama

From The Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama's review of deportation practices creates a potential conflict between two of his goals: Responding to mounting pressure from Hispanic voters to ratchet back the removal of illegal immigrants, and working with Republicans to pass an overhaul of immigration laws.
 
The White House said late Thursday that Mr. Obama has ordered administration officials to study whether deportation policies could be carried out "more humanely within the confines of the law." The review could wind up scaling back deportations, which have hit record levels under the current administration.
 
Hispanic groups have long called for such a move, but doing so likely would anger Republican lawmakers needed by Mr. Obama to push through a rewrite of immigration laws.
 
"It's not going to help," said Rep. John Carter (R., Texas). "The fingerprints of executive decisions being made without working with the Congress just adds coals to the fire."
 
In 2012, Mr. Obama acted without Congress to stem the deportation of young people brought to the U.S. illegally, a decision that boosted Latino support for his re-election. The outcome of the administrative review on deportations may be far more modest.
 
A senior administration official on Friday said the White House isn't considering a halt to deportations. Rather, the review is likely to look at whether the administration is adhering to existing guidelines that make it a priority to deport people who present a public safety risk, as well as those trying to enter the country illegally, the official said.
 
The review, to be headed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, may also consider whether a person's family ties in the U.S. should play a bigger role in deportation decisions. Hispanic and activist groups have long complained that deportations break up families in which some members are in the country legally and others illegally.
 
"We can do a more effective job prioritizing enforcement," the official said. "Are we going to take huge chunks of people off the table? No."
 
Mr. Obama delivered the same message to about a dozen immigration advocates at the White House Friday, according to two advocates who attended. One said Mr. Obama didn't promise any changes would be made to existing policy. And he said that when people made suggestions for policy changes, the president replied with skepticism about his authority to do so.
 
Still, the review is likely to quiet, at least for a time, demands by advocates that deportations be scaled back. The president announced the move in a meeting with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he called less than an hour before they were to pass a resolution demanding a halt to deportations of anybody who would qualify for legal status under legislation passed by the Senate last year. That resolution is now off the table, officials said.
 
The review likely will also complicate the already difficult path of immigration legislation by fueling Republican complaints that the president enforces laws selectively. This week, the GOP-led House passed a bill that would expedite lawsuits brought by Congress against a president who fails to enforce federal laws.
 
Many House Republicans say they aren't moving ahead with changes to immigration law because they don't trust Mr. Obama to fully enforce it. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said the immigration system is "failing families and our economy" but that the president is obligated to enforce the law, nonetheless.
 
The White House says it faithfully enforces the law, including immigration laws, and that its executive actions have been well within presidential authority.
 
Republicans have also complained about Mr. Obama's moves, taken without congressional agreement, to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and change overtime-pay rules. Both carry possible political benefits for Democrats.
 
Democrats say the GOP will act on immigration based on its own political interests. Some Republicans have said it is a mistake to take up the issue this year, because it divides the party and the GOP should focus on the troubles of the Affordable Care Act ahead of the fall elections.
 
"Their argument about the president exceeding his authority is an excuse and not a real reason," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.). "The president doesn't have limitless authority in this arena. I think he has more authority than he has used."

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