The Obama administration hinted on Friday that it might delay a some of its unilateral and controversial changes to U.S. immigration policy until later this year, instead of his original deadline of the end of the summer.
In his Friday briefing to reporters, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest refused to answer direct questions about whether President Barack Obama’s announcement would still be made by the end of the summer. Earnest dodged that question several times, and also noted that Obama still doesn’t yet have any formal recommendations to consider — both are possible signs that this deadline will now be pushed back.
“The president hasn’t actually received the final recommendations from his Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security for what options are available to him for acting unilaterally to address some for the problems of our broken immigration system,” Earnest said.
Earnest also said Obama believes it is important for him to spend some time explaining to the American people why unilateral changes are needed, which implies taking several weeks or even months to describe his plan.
“What the president would like to do is to have a legitimate, fact-based debate about this current condition of our immigration system,” he said. “The president, in the context of using his own authority to try to fix that problem, wants to have a debate about the status of our immigration system, what the consequences are for allowing that broken immigration system to persist, and what Republicans have not done to try to confront that problem.”
“He wants to make sure that the American public understands what the consequences are for our broken immigration system to persist without solving it,” Earnest added.
Obama is thought to be considering several policy changes, including the possibility of allowing millions of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and even try to find work legally.
A delay in that decision would likely disappoint many Democrats who have been urging him to take this step in the next few weeks. But a delay may also be aimed at ensuring this policy change doesn’t backfire and lead to a Democratic defeat in the November mid-term elections.
Earlier Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that some of the more dramatic changes Obama is considering could be delayed until the end of the year, which the paper noted could spare Democrats from suffering any election-related consequences.
The paper said one idea under discussion is announcing tougher border enforcement moves by the end of the summer, but waiting until after the election before allowing millions of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work. The Times said some Democratic strategists see this sort of delay as ensuring that any opposition to the plan doesn’t lead to a huge Republican turnout in November.
Earnest rejected the idea that politics is playing a role in the timing of the immigration moves.
“There may be some people who are speculating that the president is making it political decisions as it relates to immigration,” he said. “I would put forward probably a non-controversial suggestion that those are probably people who are regular critics of the president.”