WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has asked his Homeland Security chief to hold off on completing a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of the summer, senior White House officials said today, in a move aimed at salvaging any hopes for Congress to act on immigration this year.
Obama in March directed the government to examine whether deportation practices can be made more humane, seeking to pacify frustrated immigration advocates. But that step emboldened House Republicans to argue they can't trust Obama to enforce the law, and that bypassing lawmakers through executive action would deliver a death knell to the broader immigration overhaul that Obama and Democrats are seeking.
Caught in the middle, Obama is seeking to preserve what the White House sees as a narrow window in June and July in which Congress could conceivably act before Washington's focus becomes consumed by the November midterm elections.
"The president really wants to maximize the opportunity to get a permanent solution enacted, which requires Congress," said Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council.
The delay defuses an emerging split among traditional Obama allies that emerged after the president commissioned the deportation review.
Some immigration advocates and Democrats urged Obama to take immediate executive action in the face of congressional procrastination. But others insisted the focus should remain on pressuring House Republicans to act while there's still a chance - however slim - to pass a bill that could provide a path to citizenship for the 11.5 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.