House Democrats, who are stepping up the pressure on Republicans to take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation, said Tuesday the Obama administration is getting ready to take executive action on the matter very soon.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month told House Democrats he'll take action in the next few weeks on “fixes” to immigration law, most likely dealing with deportation.
“He gave us a time frame, and there are some fixes that are going to be coming sooner, which is in the next few weeks. And then there are some broader policy changes that will be coming later this year,” Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said in a conference call.
Johnson is currently reviewing the Obama administration’s deportation policies amid criticism and pressure from immigration reform advocates who say Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.
Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., who was in the meeting, told the Washington Examiner, Johnson did not specifically say what changes he is mulling, “except to say there are some short terms actions that he is going to take and some longer term actions.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus gave Johnson a memo when they met with him, outlining the changes they believe are needed when it comes to deportation. The CHC plan includes expanding Obama's recent order to defer deportations of people who arrived here illegally as children, so that parents, family members and some workers are also excluded from having to leave the country if they are here illegally.
The CHC also wants Johnson to consider a proposal to allow non-citizen family members who are living outside the U.S. to “reunite with their families in the United States,” and be allowed to apply for a green card, even if they have been deported. Garcia said the proposal would help keep families intact and keep children of deported parents out of foster care.
Garcia said Johnson reacted positively to the CHC proposals.
“He didn’t seem displeased with it and he didn’t tamp down expectations,” Garcia said.
A spokesperson for DHS did not return a call seeking comment on the meeting.
Democrats are beginning to acknowledge that executive action may be the only way immigration policies are altered this year.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he would not take up a Senate immigration reform bill that couples border security with a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people now living here illegally. Democrats in the House are collecting signatures on legislation that is based on the Senate bill, which would also expand legal immigration and create a guest worker program. Under House parliamentary rules, if they collect 218 signatures, a majority of members, it would force the bill to the House floor for a vote. But so far Democrats have collected only 191 signatures and none of them are from Republicans, who vastly outnumber them.
Democrats hope to pressure the 30 Republicans who signaled interested in immigration reform to sign on.
On Tuesday, they launched a campaign meant to pressure those GOP lawmakers who have shown interest in debating comprehensive immigration reform in the House.
In a memo sent out to the district of Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., Democrats quoted him favoring a comprehensive immigration reform.
“Now we need him to join us to finish the job,” Democrats said in the memo.