President Obama may alienate moderate Democrats if he chooses to halt deportations of illegal immigrants through executive action.
The president is facing increased pressure from some of the more liberal members of his party to reduce the number of deportations currently being conducted by his administration.
A comprehensive immigration reform bill was passed by the Senate last year that would do that. But efforts to pass a similar bill in the Republican-led House of Representatives have stalled.
The only way to break that gridlock, some argue, is for the president to move unilaterally through executive action. But many Democrats heading into midterm elections later this year fear that would hurt their chances at reelection. And some just feel it would be an overreach of the president.
“I don’t care if there’s a Democrat or a Republican president, and I know there is executive order and I know all that,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told Politico. “But I’m one of those who, if you’re going to change the law, let Congress do it. I mean, it’s like the health care [law]. [Obama] keeps delaying certain things. He doesn’t have the authority to do that.”
The president has faced increased scrutiny over using executive action to delay implementing parts of the troubled healthcare reform law often referred to as Obamacare. Those moves have caused many Democrats to seek political shelter from the president in the event that there are further rollout debacles prior to the November midterms.
President Obama likely increased the anxiety of some Democrats Monday when he ordered Department of Homeland Security Secretray Jeh Johnson to review how current immigration laws are being implemented. The Christian Science Monitor reported that he ordered Johnson to see if some laws could be applied “more humanely.” Such a change could only come through executive action.
“I think that is very possible that it could be problematic if the president does that,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill. “I hope we don’t come to that.”
Other Democrats understand the political risk — that Republicans could use unilateral action by the leader of the Democratic party against them in elections. But they argue that executive action may be the only way to get things moving for the legislation currently held up in the House.
“I certainly don’t blame the president for taking action,” said Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas. “If House leadership doesn’t like what the president is doing … then they can stop the whole thing by bringing [the Democrats’ immigration reform bill] to the floor.”