White House officials refuse to publicly entertain any discussion of taking further steps. “The only way to bring 11 million undocumented individuals out of the shadow economy is for Congress to pass common-sense reform with an earned path to citizenship. That’s it. Full stop,” said White House spokesman Bobby Whithorne.
When asked in interviews about the high number of deportations under his administration, Obama has sought to put the onus on Congress. “I’m not a king,” he told Telemundo earlier this year.
Advocates say administration officials are no more receptive in private, although Cecilia Munoz, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, has agreed to meet with labor leaders on the issue, something that’s in the process of being scheduled, according to one union official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private gathering.
The issue arises against the backdrop of an uncertain outlook in Congress for comprehensive immigration legislation offering eventual citizenship to those already in the country illegally.
Far-reaching legislation with new visa and workplace enforcement programs and billions for border security — along with a path to citizenship for millions — passed the Democratic-controlled Senate in June, but it has been stalled in the GOP-led House ever since.
Congress’ just-completed August recess did little to create momentum for the House to act, despite efforts by advocates and a notable absence of anti-immigrant protests. Washington’s recent focus on Syria seemed to further sideline the issue. Also, lawmakers will be occupied in coming weeks with finding ways to pass bills to keep the government running when money runs out on Sept. 30 and raising the ceiling on the federal debt.
Immigrant communities, meanwhile, are increasingly restive over the large number of deportations under the Obama administration — close to 400,000 annually in recent years, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Activists say Obama should halt deportations of immigrants who would be eligible for eventual citizenship under the Senate immigration bill, which the White House supports.