WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama said Monday he’s convinced that House Republicans will not take action to reform the U.S. immigration system this year and that he plans to use his executive authority to “fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”
Obama set an end-of-summer deadline for officials to give him options for reforms he can implement on his own and promised he would “adopt those recommendations without further delay.”
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said that the current crisis of a surge of children arriving at the border is not a valid reason for Congress to hold off on passing comprehensive immigration legislation, as many Republican members of Congress have said.
The “argument seems to be that because the system’s broken, we shouldn’t make an effort to fix it,” Obama said. “It makes no sense. It’s not on the level. It’s just politics, plain and simple.”
He also repeated that minors who have arrived in recent months will be sent back to their countries of origin, a message that administration officials have tried to send to Central Americans.
“This is not a situation where these children are slipping through,” Obama said, noting that nearly all are being taken into custody at the border. “Our system is so broken, so unclear, that folks don’t know what the rules are.”
A few weeks ago, Obama had asked his Homeland Security secretary to hold off on submitting a series of recommendations for changing U.S. deportation practices, hoping to give House Republicans space to come up with a legislative package they could support.
But according to the White House version of events, House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told Obama last week that his chamber doesn’t plan to take action this year.
In a statement, Boehner said that he had “told the president what I have been telling him for months: The American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.”
“The crisis at our southern border reminds us all of the critical importance of fixing our broken immigration system,” Boehner said. “It is sad and disappointing that — faced with this challenge —— President Obama won’t work with us but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can’t and won’t fix these problems.” He added that Obama’s previous executive orders “have led directly to the humanitarian crisis.”
Republicans have pointed to Obama’s decision in 2012 to stop deportations of some young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, saying that order, known as DACA, had given families in Central America false hope that children who come to the U.S. now will not be deported.
Administration officials have denied that their policies are to blame. Instead, they have said that GOP refusal to consider reforming immigration has made matters worse by keeping a dysfunctional system in place.
Earlier in the day, the White House began pressing Congress to come up with more than $2 billion in new money to manage the flood of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied children arriving at the southern border, mostly in Texas.