WASHINGTON — With Congress unwilling and unable to reach an agreement on how to address the nation’s rising immigration dilemma, President Obama is studying a range of actions that he could take to ease the humanitarian crisis at the border and begin tackling broader immigration reform, administration and congressional officials tell ABC News.
The president is considering what authority he has under existing law to ease the flow of young migrants from Central America who are crossing the U.S./Mexico border. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson are preparing a series of recommendations to give to the president as soon as next week.
Supporters of immigration reform are pushing the administration to consider issuing work permits for some of the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S., officials said, a politically explosive move that would likely draw sharp criticism from Republicans. Officials say it’s one of many options the administration is considering after Congress left town without reaching a compromise on any immigration bill.
Some type of executive action could be announced before month’s end, officials say, with the most immediate steps likely to address the current crisis on the southern border. Obama confirmed in a press conference on Friday that, faced with an impasse in Congress over how much emergency money to provide to address the problem, he will take some form of unilateral action.
“I’m going to have to act alone, because we don’t have enough resources,” Obama said. “We’ve already been very clear. We’ve run out of money.”
The president is said to be considering a range of options.
Such a move by Obama would stir up an already heated national debate over immigration policy and would almost certainly spark sharp criticism from Republicans who have already held Obama responsible for the flow of child immigrants, claiming he incentivized illegal child immigration with a 2012 announcement that young immigrants could apply for deferred deportations and remain in the country legally, even if they came to the U.S. without going through a legal immigration process.
Some presidential action is expected this month, before Congress returns from its five-week August recess.
Obama and congressional Republicans have been locked in a standoff over immigration policy during his entire White House tenure — a political dispute that has only heightened in intensity with the recent border crisis.
Late Friday night, House Republicans rebuked Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to help house and process child immigrants on the southern border and to process and deport adults who had crossed the border with them.
Obama had called for that funding in July. Senate Democrats proposed a smaller, $2.7 billion package, which Senate Republicans blocked on Thursday. The House passed an even smaller, $694 million package that drew sharp criticism from Democrats, who called it insufficient and voted against the package.
That measure included funding to send National Guard forces to the border, a move Obama has opposed. The House also passed a bill to block Obama’s 2012 action on young illegal immigrants.
Unilateral action has been a theme for Obama of late.
In multiple speeches and weekly radio addresses, Obama has promised unilateral executive action on economic measures, browbeating Congress for opposing policies like a higher minimum wage and legislation that would expand legal recourse for unequal pay for women.
Republicans, in turn, have accused the president of overstepping his constitutional authority, and this week the House voted to move forward with House Speaker John Boehner’s planned lawsuit against Obama over an executive action delaying the employer-provided health-insurance mandate in the president’s signature health law, the Affordable Care Act.