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Congress falters, Obama advances on immigration

The House GOP won't move on immigration until 2017 at the earliest. It's not exactly shocking, then, that the White House is eyeing unilateral alternatives.
Oscar Rojas carries an American flag during a May Day demonstration in Oakland, California May 1, 2014.
Oscar Rojas carries an American flag during a May Day demonstration in Oakland, California May 1, 2014.
Hopes of congressional action on immigration have effectively disappeared. In fact, Politico reported yesterday that there's "growing pessimism on Capitol Hill that a sweeping immigration bill is achievable in President Barack Obama's second term." In other words, barring an unexpected surge in progressive voter turnout, legislation is dead until 2017 at the earliest.
The piece added that Republicans might consider some kind of immigration legislation, but only if Democrats drop their "demand" for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. In other words, if it's a 100% Republican bill, Republicans might be willing to pass it. How gracious of them.
Not surprisingly, the White House has noticed.

President Obama blasted House Republicans for having "stubbornly refused" to address comprehensive immigration reform while attending a fundraiser outside of San Diego on Thursday. "Republicans so far at least haven't been willing to step up," Obama said. "To their credit some in the Senate have, but the House Republicans have stubbornly refused to even allow a vote on the issue."

And with the growing realization that GOP lawmakers probably won't budge on this issue for the remainder of the Obama presidency, it falls once again to the administration to consider how far it can and will go to improve the system without congressional input.
Yesterday, officials announced some new measures -- intended to compliment the other recent measures.
The Hill reported that the president is Obama "flexing his executive muscle on immigration reform."

The administration has moved via executive branch authority on numerous fronts in recent days to improve access to education for illegal immigrants and loosen visa restrictions for some foreign workers. Those steps come as Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson conducts a separate review of immigration policy at the president's direction and is reportedly weighing an administrative move to curtail deportations. Taken together, the administration's actions signal the president's resolve to press forward on a core item on his policy agenda, with or without help from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Among the policies are orders to public school districts not to deny enrollment to undocumented children. The Department of Homeland Security also tweaked U.S. visa policies related to highly skilled workers and H-1B visa holders.
For his part, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) expressed outrage on the Senate floor this week, railing against executive action.
"The Obama administration claims it wants immigration reform, but they can't wait for Congress. They act on their own," he said. "We need to get immigration reform right, and doing ad-hoc rules that fly in the face of the statute are not helpful to the process." He added that House Republicans might be more willing to legislate if the White House stopped trying to govern.
It's worth reminding Grassley of a few things. First, he loved executive action on immigration when Bush/Cheney was in office, but somehow seems to have changed his mind. What a coincidence.
Second, everyone has been "waiting for Congress," but Grassely's pals don't want to pass a bill. There's literally nothing to suggest more waiting will produce better results.
Third, it's true that ad-hoc rule making is less effective policymaking than comprehensive solutions approved by Congress, but again, if Republicans refuse to act, it's not exactly shocking that the White House is looking for solutions.
As for Grassley's confidence that the House GOP might be inclined to consider a compromise if the president stopped trying to govern, I'm going to assume the senator was kidding, since this is impossible to take seriously.