The question is not whether President Obama is preparing to act on his own on immigration policy; the questions are how far he intends to go and when we'll hear the announcement. Julie Hirschfeld Davis reported yesterday that the White House is working its way through a deliberate process, launched in June after Obama said he had no choice but to work around a do-nothing Congress.
When the president vowed in the Rose Garden in June to "fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own," immigration activists were ready with their list of potential executive actions. They range from giving certain categories of undocumented immigrants temporary "parole in place" status to stay in the United States, to essentially legalizing millions more by expanding a 2012 directive issued by Mr. Obama that grants work permits and deportation deferments to young immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.
The requests did not stop there. Cecilia Munoz, Mr. Obama's top immigration adviser and the domestic policy chief, has led meetings attended by White House political aides and lawyers to hear from interest groups, individual companies and business groups about what executive actions they believe the president should take on immigration.
To be sure, under the traditional approach to policymaking, these discussions would also be held on Capitol Hill. But as has become clear, House Republicans will not consider immigration legislation, so the talks have moved to the White House.
It's a reminder that when the legislative branch is paralyzed, it doesn't necessarily stop the policymaking process, so much as it redirects policymaking efforts elsewhere.
Assuming that we'll hear more about the president's plans in the near future, it's not too early to consider the political repercussions. On the surface, it's tempting to think the fallout will benefit Obama and his Democratic allies -- immigration reform is popular and voters tend to prefer action to inaction.
But for red-state Democrats with the prevailing political winds in their faces, it's not quite that simple.