Some of Capitol Hill's top immigration reform advocates on Friday praised President Obama's recent signal that he may ease the pace of deportations, welcoming the reprieve for families who fear separation but warning that the "temporary" fix would not remove the need for more comprehensive reform.
As their impatience about the lack of congressional action on the issue builds, immigration reform proponents have increasingly pressed the White House to act unilaterally to halt deportations of immigrants whose only crime was living in the U.S. without documentation.
The president has insisted that such a fix would be outside the scope of his authority, but during a meeting on Thursday with Hispanic lawmakers at the White House, Mr. Obama announced a review of his administration's deportation policies. According to a White House readout of the meeting, the president said he'd directed the Department of Homeland Security to "do an inventory of the Department's current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law."
"The President emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system," the statement added.
On Friday, the president will meet with representatives from organizations that support immigration reform at the White House to consult on the way forward. Among the participants expected at the meeting is Janet Murguia, the head of the National Council of La Raza, which last week branded Mr. Obama the "deporter-in-chief" due to his administration's rapid pace of deportations.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said after the meeting on Thursday that the White House had been "dormant for too long," but he added, "It is clear that the pleas from the community got through to the president."
And on Friday, Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., the highest-ranking Latino Democrat in the House, said he would "take the president up" on his administration's offer to consult with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) during its review.
The CHC, Becerra said, would push for "as much as we can within the framework of the law -- ways that we can make sure that, while we push to get a vote in the House of Representatives from Republicans, that we also try to protect families that don't deserve to be suffering."
On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney continued pushing the administration's line that any executive action would not preclude the need for legislation, urging Republicans in the House to schedule a vote.
"It is imperative that the House follow suit, take up a bill that is ready to go in the House, that mirrors the principles that you see in the Senate bill that was passed with Democrats and Republicans...so that this can become a reality and the president can sign it into law," Carney said.
Carney also shot down a question about whether the administrative fix might feed into Republican complaints about Mr. Obama overstepping his executive authority -- and therefore diminish the likelihood of legislation on the issue.
"If the Republican message is they refuse to reform our broken immigration system because they have an issue with the president, I think they ought to explain that to the American people," Carney said. "It is absolutely the case that this kind of review would not be necessary if Congress had passed -- and the president had been able to sign into law -- comprehensive immigration reform."
House Republican leaders, long aware of conservatives' concerns about immigration reform, were given a fresh reminder when a statement of reform principles circulated in January at the annual GOP retreat produced some grumbling among their rank-and file. Still, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signaled Thursday that the issue has not yet slipped from the agenda.
"We've got issues like immigration, which I think are important, [that] ought to be dealt with," Boehner said. "So we've got a lot of work on our list."
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