President Barack Obama said he’ll resort to executive action on U.S. immigration rules because House Republicans won’t hold a vote on legislation to revamp the system.
“For more than a year, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-and-down vote,” the president said at the White House. They are “unwilling to stand up to the Tea Party to do what’s best for the country.”
House Speaker John Boehner told him last week that the chamber won’t vote this year on revamping immigration law, Obama said. The Senate last year passed a bipartisan bill that’s been blocked in the House, which Obama would sign.
“America cannot wait forever for them to act,” Obama said.
The president said he has directed Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to move enforcement resources to the southern U.S. border, to focus on removing undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes from the country.
Obama also is asking his advisers to find steps he can take in the next few months to change the U.S. immigration system for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country who haven’t broken laws.
Most reforms “will still require an act of Congress,” Obama said, and he will continue to reach out to House Republicans to find a path to legislation. “I am prepared to work with them even on a bill that I don’t consider perfect,” he said.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said today the message he gave Obama last week wasn’t new.
“I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written,” Boehner said in a statement. “Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress.”
Earlier today, Obama separately asked Congress for emergency funds and legal authority to stem an increasing flow of undocumented immigrants -- especially children traveling without adults -- from Central American countries across the U.S. southern border. He said legislation may be needed to increase penalties for people smuggling children into the U.S. for for border security.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest today blamed “criminal syndicates” for propagating rumors of amnesty that are leading an influx of Central American children to try to reach the U.S.
House Republicans have long said that they have no intention of taking up the Senate immigration measure or any single “comprehensive” bill.
Instead, Republican leaders outlined guidelines for piecemeal immigration legislation at their annual retreat in January, starting with increased border security and including a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. A week later, in a line he has often repeated since, Boehner told reporters it would be hard to pass immigration legislation because Republicans don’t trust the president to implement it.
“Listen, the president is going to have to demonstrate that he can be trusted to implement a law the way it was passed,” he told reporters on June 12.
Republicans have struggled to find the votes for any immigration bill and haven’t yet found an approach that could garner a majority vote from within their party. What little momentum advocates had was killed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary election loss in Virginia, where Cantor was branded by challenger David Brat, who was backed by the limited-government Tea Party movement, as someone who favored amnesty.
Republicans so far have rejected allowing a vote on legislation that would rely on Democrats for passage.
The immigration standoff may deepen the rift between Obama and Boehner, who appeared with Obama at the White House as recently as June 24 when the Republican leader joined him to celebrate golfers including Tiger Woods.
Boehner last week said the House will sue Obama’s administration over what Republicans say is a pattern of failing to enforce laws related to issues including health care, foreign policy, energy and education.
“The president is not faithfully executing the laws of our country,” Boehner told reporters June 25. The Republican-controlled House will vote to empower such lawsuits in July.