Obama stalls plan on immigration reform

President had called on Republicans to ‘drop the excuses and act’

President Barack Obama has parked the possibility of taking executive action on

the issue of US immigration reform fearing the effect on the Congressional mid-term elections in November and the loss of Democratic control of the Senate.

Mr Obama had promised to act unilaterally, bypassing Republicans in Congress, to overhaul the immigration system by the end of the summer but bowed to pressure from fellow Democrats by deciding over the weekend to shelve the issue until after November's ballot.

Blocking legislation

On June 30th, the president berated Republicans in the House of Representatives for blocking legislation that would change immigration laws for the first time in a generation and called on them to “drop the excuses and act”. He called on the Republicans to “pass a darn bill” and said he would take executive action.


The Republican-led House has refused to vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, passed by Senate Democrats and Republicans, which would put 11 million illegal immigrants, including an estimated 50,000 Irish, on a path to US citizenship.

Republicans have stalled the bill largely over concerns about controls along the border with Mexico and that a path to citizenship would reward illegal actions and be seen as an amnesty.

The arrival of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America, fleeing violence and poverty seeking refuge in a country that many believe will receive them openly, has changed the politics of the reform debate, leading some Democrats to call on Mr Obama to address the border crisis before addressing the issue of changes to immigration legislation.

Border crisis

The crisis has strengthened the Republican position that the president must improve security along the border before acting on immigration reform, prompting a rethink by the Obama administration.

On Saturday the White House said Mr Obama was postponing executive action on immigration until later in the year, again blaming Republicans for their opposition to the issue.

Unaccompanied children

Mr Obama denied that the reversal was due to a political decision to help Democrats retain the Senate. He said the mid-summer border crisis involving unaccompanied children had shifted the politics of immigration reform and undermined support for it, saying that delaying action would give him time to explain the policy to the public.

"I'm going to act because it's the right thing for the country," he said in an interview on NBC Sunday talk show, Meet The Press. "But it's going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what we've done on unaccompanied children and why it's necessary."

Mr Obama said he wanted “to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action. I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this.”

The delay will reduce the impact of the issue in the Congressional election campaign where Republicans are targeting vulnerable Democrats in an attempt to record a net gain of six seats to regain control of the Senate, which would give them control of Congress if they retain their majority in the House.

Republicans have threatened to take a lawsuit against the president over his plan to take executive action to circumvent Congress.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent