WASHINGTON (AP) — With prospects for real immigration reform fading, President Barack Obama is yielding to pressure from some of his staunchest allies and looking for ways to act without Congress to ease the suffering caused by deportation.
An Oval Office meeting with three Latino lawmakers brought about a late-night announcement from the White House on Thursday: Obama is directing his homeland security chief, Jeh Johnson, to review America's deportation program, with an eye toward finding more humane ways to enforce the law without contravening it.
It was unexpected, coming from a president who said as recently as last week that when it came to deportations, he's already stretched his presidential powers to the max.
Preferring a lasting legislative solution for one of Obama's top priorities, the White House had wanted to avoid this course, knowing that any steps Obama takes that are perceive as overreaching will only give Republicans excuses to avoid dealing with immigration. After all, the GOP has already cast Obama as a president gone wild, citing endless changes to his health care law and his move to allow children brought to the U.S. illegally to stay here.
But what started as ordinary griping from a constituency that's been among Obama's most loyal has spiraled, with prominent Latino leaders denouncing Obama as the "deporter in chief." Advocates that had long given Obama the benefit of the doubt determined that his persistent efforts to push lawmakers to act were not enough — they were done waiting for Congress.
"It is clear that the pleas from the community got through to the president," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., adding that the White House had been "dormant for too long."
What is not clear is how far Obama will go — or what options are even available to mitigate the pain without consent from Congress.