Pressed repeatedly by reporters Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Obama’s intention to use his executive power to act on immigration if Congress fails to, but he declined to say when that would take place.
“I think it’s a worthwhile line of questioning,” he said, “but I’m not in a position to give additional details to you in terms of timing.”
Earnest also declined to comment when asked whether he and other Democrats have determined that an executive action on immigration carries too many political risks to announce before the November midterm elections.
“There are some people who think it would help, some people who think it would hurt,” he said. “… It’s not my responsibility to be a political analyst. There are a lot of people in the room who are better placed to make that political assessment.”
Since the border crisis became a national political issue, Democrats have grown worried that Obama’s determination to take executive action on immigration reform prior to November could motivate voters to cast ballots for Republicans in this year's elections.
Reports about Obama’s immigration plans earlier this summer weighed the possibility that he could allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the country and obtain work permits and driver’s licenses. In 2012, he issued an executive order allowing some illegal immigrants who had come to the country as children to remain without the fear of deportation.
During a press conference last week, Obama for the first time stopped short of repeating his intention to act on immigration by a self-imposed deadline of summer’s end.
“It continues to be my belief that if I can’t see congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better,” he told reporters during a Thursday press conference at the White House.
The more tepid statement was different than the one he made in the White House Rose Garden in late June when he pledged to start “a new effort to fix as much of our immigration systems as I can on my own, without Congress.”
At the time, he said he had directed the Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Eric Holder to review additional actions he could take to fix “existing legal authorities.” He said he expected the recommendations by the end of the summer and would act on them “without delay.”