White House giving Boehner room on immigration, fends off pressure to act on its own

The Associated Press

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. As Republican leaders dampen hopes for overhauling immigration laws this year, the White House for now is betting that the display of GOP resistance is temporary and tactical and is resisting pressure from some allies to have President Barack Obama take matters into his own hands. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

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The longer the immigration issue remains unresolved, the more pressure will fall on Obama from immigrant advocates to act alone and ease the deportations that have been undertaken by his administration.

"Let's not sugarcoat the reality, right now it looks difficult," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration group America's Voice. "Inevitably more and more advocates will be calling on the president to stop and roll back the deportation machinery. It is a source of tremendous anger, frustration on the part of immigrants and their allies that Obama is deporting people today that would benefit from immigration reform tomorrow."

The White House insists the president is following the law and cannot act unilaterally to change it, a view disputed by advocacy groups.

"The administration has both the legal authority and moral authority to make changes that would reduce the pain and suffering in the community right now," said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. Such advocates dismiss Republican claims that Obama can't be counted on to enforce the border security components of a new immigration law.

Boehner said Thursday that the public and many Republican members "don't trust that the reform we're talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be."

Sharry called Boehner's remarks a "flimsy excuse" given that Obama has "deported more people than ever, that net unauthorized migration at the border is zero or less, that we've doubled the number of border patrol in the last decade to 21,000."

The White House has decided to leave that argument to the outside groups, unwilling to counter Boehner's allegation by drawing attention to policies that anger immigrant advocates. Administration officials point to recent bipartisan passage of farm legislation, which Obama signed Friday, and a broad budget agreement, as evidence that Boehner apparently trusts Obama to deal on other matters.

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