President Obama is in Europe this week, dealing with the the vexing issues of ISIS and Russia's increasingly aggressive moves in eastern Ukraine. Those issues will continue to dominate his agenda in the coming weeks in all probability, but there is one domestic issue that a core group of voters want him to move on now back at home: immigration reform.
On June 30 the President announced that he had instructed cabinet officials to prepare reports advising him what executive orders he could legally issue to mend a broken immigration system on his own. The announcement came exactly a year after the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, a bill that House Speaker John Boehner refused to allow to come to the floor for a vote.
But with less than three weeks to go before summer officially ends, there are fears from the Latino community that Obama will punt on the issue until after the midterm elections, which don't take place for another two months. On Wednesday afternoon, Democratic Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez said Obama should show courage and let the American people know what's in his heart and in his mind on the issue now, and not wait until after the elections.
"If the Republican Party refuses to act, the President has the responsibility to ensure fairness and to ensure justice," Gutierrez said on a conference call. "I think I know what's in the President's heart, so I say to the Democrats, stand aside. Let him make a decision. Let him announce it, and stop this stopping of progress of our community towards justice. Just step aside."
The Democrats that Gutierrez was probably referring to are the ones in closely contested Senate races this fall: those would be Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mark Begich in Alaska, and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. But he refused to name names.
The issue is certainly contentious within the Democratic Party.
“It would have the unhelpful consequence of putting the issue in the news in a way that doesn’t help Democrats, while also not accomplishing anything,” a national Democratic strategist told Time magazine
Lorella Praeli, Director of Advocacy & Policy for the group United We Dream, said during the call that "The rumors that the Administration might delay does not just mean more broken promises; it means that my mother and millions more will continue to be vulnerable to deportation."
Congressman Gutierrez says it's irresponsible for Obama to wait until after the election to make his move.
"Let's not be afraid of standing up for our values, standing up for what we believe in as Democrats," he says. "Stand up for your values today and let the American people make a decision on the merits of your actions."
But while Gutierrez represents the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party when it comes to immigration and what the President should do, most Republicans have been apocalyptic in their language when discussing this topic.
None more prominent than Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who last week wrote a letter
to Obama expressing the fact that he is “increasingly alarmed” that the White House may execute executive actions that would prevent millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allow them to get work permits. Rubio said such actions would “close the door on any chance of making progress on immigration reform in the foreseeable future.”
: "Furthermore, your pursuit of unilateral action in the midst of an election year, without any concern for the policy ramifications, has played a significant role in the humanitarian and security crisis that has been occurring on our border with Mexico.