President Obama, following through on his vow to sidestep Congress, will announce in a prime-time TV speech Thursday the executive actions he will take to change U.S. immigration law. Obama will make his announcement, expected to protect roughly 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation, from the White House at 8 p.m. EST.
The president will go ahead with his plan despite widespread opposition from Capitol Hill Republicans and some Democrats, who have asked him to wait until next year when the GOP controls the House and Senate to try to reform the country’s broken immigration system. The move may have long lasting consequences for the Democratic Party for supporting a president who ignored centuries old constitutional precedent.
Obama is also under intense pressure from Hispanics and much of his liberal base to act now, after promising to act by September, then disappointing them by waiting until after the midterms.
At least some of the estimated 5 million illegal immigrants who would be spared from deportation are also expected to be made eligible for work permits. But the eligible immigrants would not be entitled to federal benefits, including health care tax credits, under the plan, administration officials said Wednesday.
Late Wednesday, the United Farm Workers announced that Obama had told union President Arturo Rodriguez that at least 250,000 unionized farm workers would be eligible for deportation relief, with at least half that eligible number based in California.
The president in 2012 used executive action to delay deportation for some of the millions of young people brought the U.S. illegally by their parents.
House Speaker John Boehner has warned Obama that taking executive action on the immigration issue before January would be tantamount to “playing with fire.”
And on Wednesday before the announcement, Boehner aide Michael Steel referred to the president and attempt to govern alone as “Emperor Obama.”
The Democrat-controlled Senate last year passed bipartisan, comprehensive immigration-reform legislation. However, the GOP-controlled House has not passed such a bill.
“We’ve been waiting for a year for House Republicans to come to a vote,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “We’re confident it would pass with bipartisan support.”
He also said the president chose to act because the House has indicated it will not address immigration reform in the next Congress.
Congressional Republicans are already working on a strategy to stop Obama from using executive action, including a plan to submit a temporary spending bill that would cut any funding for related efforts like issuing Social Security cards for those to be protected under the Obama change.
The federal government technically runs out of money by December 11. So the president and Congress failing to promptly reach a budget deal could result in a partial government shutdown. However, Republicans have said they do not intend to submit a budget that Obama would veto and result in a shutdown.
“What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem,” Obama said in a video posted on Facebook on Wednesday.
Obama is scheduled to host a White House dinner before the speech for 18 congressional Democrats to talk about immigration and other second-term priorities, then travel to Las Vegas to tout his changes.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to join the president in his home state of Nevada.
Reid said Tuesday that Obama should take executive action as quickly as possible, a shift from last week when he said the president should wait to act until Congress had completed work on the must-pass spending legislation.
“I believe that when the president decides to do his executive order, he should go big, as big as he can,” Reid said, adding that he had spoken with Obama on Monday. “I said he should do something as quickly as he can.”
Several Democratic senators are uncomfortable with President Obama’s decision to use executive action to make immigration reform, raising the possibility of open, bipartisan resistance to his plan.
The senators, most from conservative states, objected to Obama’s unilateral approach, saying on Wednesday that they preferred Congress to take the lead with legislation. Democrats should try again to work with Republicans in Congress to set reforms in law, many said. No Democrats went so far as to say they were ready to break with the president, but several were critical of his go-it-alone approach.
“I wish he wouldn’t do it,” Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said. “I think we ought to work through this process, and with the new elections and the results of the elections, we ought to try in January to see if we can find a pathway to get something accomplished.”
If six or seven Democratic votes in the new Senate joined Republicans, they would have the 60 needed to block the executive order and force Obama into a politically embarrassing veto.
Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said she supported comprehensive immigration reform but was concerned by Obama’s plan. “I have to be honest, how this is coming about makes me uncomfortable, I think it probably makes most Missourians uncomfortable.”
The Democratic Party have been severely damaged by President Obama’s policies and approach to the presidency in his six years in office. This non-constitutional executive action may leave them on the point of giving way to a new third party rising in the not too distant future such will be the anger among the majority of Americans. The question is not a moral one, it is a legal one and every president entering office swearing that that he/she will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of their Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
A tragic day in American and presidential history has arrived.