President Obama announced Monday that he is shifting more immigration enforcement agents to the border and will take broader executive actions to address the millions of immigrants living in the U.S illegally, acting unilaterally with prospects for legislation dead on Capitol Hill.
“I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing,” Obama said, hitting back at critics who accuse him of overstepping his constitutional authority.
The president said Republicans are using the surge in undocumented immigrants, particularly children, at the U.S-Mexico border as their “newest excuse to do nothing.”
Aside from announcing the redirecting of immigration enforcement officials, Obama did not offer specific policy prescriptions.
Many progressives would like the president to expand his previous deferral of deportations of Dream Act-eligible immigrants to others living in the U.S. illegally. Obama said simply that his team would deliver recommendations for executive actions by the end of summer.
The president said he would then immediately implement their best suggestions.
Republicans, however, say that the president’s inability to enforce the laws on the books essentially made it impossible to pass immigration reform through the GOP-controlled House.
“Speaker Boehner told the president exactly what he has been telling him: The American people and their elected officials don't trust him to enforce the law as written,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.”
In recent months, the White House had opted to give Republicans space to negotiate a possible legislative package. But with November's midterm elections swiftly approaching, there was little hope that a comprehensive bill would emerge in the House.
The immigration debate has become even more heated with tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors being apprehended at the southwest border.
Republicans say that the problem is proof that the White House is not committed to border security, while Obama counters that if conservatives cared about stiffer enforcement measures they would pass a new law.
“We are going to refocus our efforts,” Obama said of his future executive actions. “If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours."