WASHINGTON (AP) — Advocates are demanding that President Barack Obama use his powers as chief executive to stop deportations of more people among the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally. The president is obliging, but in a bit-by-bit way that doesn't satisfy groups frustrated by Republicans' slow-walking of immigration legislation in the House.
Obama last year acted on his own to halt deportations for some young immigrants living in the country illegally who arrived as children. So far more than 550,000 young immigrants have been allowed to stay under the program, which also lets the immigrants get work permits good for two years.
Republicans pushed a bill through the House earlier this year to resume those deportations, but the Senate never acted on it and Obama's directive is still in place. Still, the vote was a clear sign of Republican opposition to what some lawmakers have called "backdoor amnesty" through Obama's unilateral executive actions.
Similar limited actions by the White House have just whetted the appetite of immigration advocates for more of them, now that wide-ranging immigration legislation that would offer eventual citizenship to some immigrants living here illegally is stalled in the House.
"Executive order" was the rallying cry of hecklers at an Obama Democratic fundraiser Monday in San Francisco.
"Stop deportations! Stop deportations!" audience members shouted at a separate event after Obama was interrupted midspeech by a young man who said his family has been separated for 19 months. Both events underscored dissatisfaction with the Democratic president, not only over the stalled immigration overhaul but the administration's policies.
Obama responded with a brief lesson on the constitutional limits on his power.
"If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so," Obama told the first group. "But we're also a nation of laws. That's part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws."