WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A top White House aide says that President Barack Obama will use executive action on immigration by the end of the year.
Speaking to CNN Thursday, Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer stated that “we’re going to have to take action.”
“As he said at his press conference, he will do, by the end of the year, what options are legally available to him to try to fix our immigration system,” Pfeiffer said, mentioning the president’s Wednesday press conference. “That’s not a substitute for a legislative solution. We still need that and there’s no reason Congress can’t act after the president and the second they do that, they will supersede his order and they will get what they want.”
Obama vowed Wednesday to take action on immigration even if he doesn’t have Republican support.
“I have no doubt that there will be some Republicans who are angered or frustrated by any executive action that I may take,” Obama said. “Those are folks, I just have to say, who are also deeply opposed to immigration reform, in any form, and blocked the House from being able to pass a bipartisan bill.”
He continued: “The best way, if folks are serious about getting immigration reform done, is going ahead and passing a bill and getting it to my desk. And then the executive actions that I take go away.”
Pfeiffer said that immigrant families cannot wait on Congress to act.
“The president has worked really hard on trying to pass immigration reform. He has held off, as he said the other night,” Pfeiffer told CNN. “He’s been incredibly patient. He feels rightfully so that the families who will be affected by this cannot wait on the hope that Congress will do it.”
Pfeiffer’s comments come as House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell meet with Obama at the White House on Friday. Both Republican leaders have warned the president about acting alone on immigration.
“(Immigration) is an issue that most of my members want to address, legislatively, and it’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull to say, ‘If you guys don’t do what I want I’m going to do it on my own,” McConnell said.
Boehner himself likened Obama’s remarks to playing with matches. “He’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path,” Boehner said Thursday.
Some possible GOP presidential contenders, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, have signaled a desire to tackle an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system next year. Others outside Washington, including Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Perry of Texas, have taken measures to appeal to Hispanics, including passing laws that allow some children of immigrants here illegally to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.
And not all Republicans agree that aggressive opposition to an executive action will yield an electoral disaster. Republican consultant Mike McKenna, who conducts polls and focus groups in several states, said that unless the president’s effort is modest, “he’s going to sink the (Democratic) party for 2016.”
Obama faces enormous pressure to act from Latinos, an important part of the Democratic base. Immigrant advocates, labor leaders and others called on the president Thursday to act boldly, and dared Republicans to stand in his way.
“If they come after him,” said AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, Democrats will say, “Look, the lunatics are already running the asylum.”
Advocates say the White House is weighing actions that would apply to those who meet a certain term of U.S. residency, perhaps 10 years. Also under consideration is whether to include parents of those who received deportation deferrals under Obama, or only parents of children who are U.S. citizens because they were born here.
Hispanic voters were an important part of Obama’s support in his presidential campaigns and are seen as a crucial voting bloc in the years to come. A Republican Party “autopsy” of the 2012 election made only one policy recommendation: The GOP should embrace “comprehensive immigration reform.”
That phrase typically means enhancing border security along with addressing the status of the roughly 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.
But many House Republicans, and some senators, owe their elections largely to GOP primary voters who adamantly oppose any form of legalization.
Exit polls of voters in Tuesday’s midterms found that while 57 percent of Americans favor offering immigrants living here illegally a chance to apply for legal status, the issue splits along party lines: 78 percent of Democratic voters supported providing a way for immigrants to remain in the country, while 56 percent of Republican voters said they should be deported.
Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Latino vote in 2012, the worst performance for a GOP nominee in 16 years. Many Republicans attribute it to his hard-line stance on immigration.
Voters “don’t care what you know until they know you really care about them,” said Hector Barreto, who has advised Republican presidential campaigns since 2000. “I don’t see how you go into 2016 and you brag about how great you’re going to be for the Hispanic community and you never did anything on this issue.”