Obama set to take action on immigration by end of September

Written By Lynn Sweet Posted: 08/26/2014, 11:48am

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is poised to take action on immigration by the end of September, with the White House working on details relating to significant policy changes in the wake of Congress failing to act, sources told me.

Sources who have been in meetings at the White House said the decision for Obama to act has been made, legal reviews have been conducted, and “right now it is a question of timing, scale, how to pay for it and how to make it work.”

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama was on track to keep his self-imposed deadline of making a decision on immigration by the end of summer — which is  Sept. 21 — and did more than hint there were changes in the pipeline that would come before the November elections.

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Asked for an update on where Obama is about deciding on immigration at the Monday briefing, Earnest said, “As you know, we said at the end of the summer, and while the president has returned from Martha’s Vineyard and it is a beautiful, 80-degree day here in Washington, it actually still is technically the summer, so we’re not at the end of it yet. But when we get there we’ll probably have some news to make on immigration.”

The administration has not finalized whether the changes will come via executive orders or through priority changes within the Department of Homeland Security.

House Republicans have voted to sue Obama over his use of executive actions. 

That’s been met by the president and the White House with a shrug, and Obama is set to sign more orders because the GOP-led House declines votes on Obama agenda items.

Players — from labor unions to the varied interests of corporate America — are pressing the White House for specific provisions, such as visa quotas for high-tech workers as well as an easing of deportations of people with no criminal record. 

With Obama expected to act in a few weeks, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a national leader on immigration — who has been a critic of the rising number of deportations on Obama’s watch — said Monday that a lot of organizing work needs to be done to help eligible illegal immigrants sign up for expected programs to let them stay in the U.S. legally.

“We want to get as many as we can out of the vicious cycle of deportation,” Gutierrez told Jose Diaz-Balart on his MSNBC show. “. . .  We’re getting ready.”

“We are preparing,” said Billy Lawless, a member of the executive committee of the Illinois Restaurant Association and on the steering committee of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, who was at a White House meeting on immigration earlier this month. “The indication I got,” he said, “is that they are going to go big on this.”

Chicago and Illinois political leaders are very pro-immigration reform.

The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition has united Republican and Democratic executives to support immigration reform — an alliance that does not exist in other states. Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also have offered to help in the wake of the surge of “border children”  who came to the U.S. illegally through Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, unlike some officials from other states who spurned administration efforts to house unaccompanied alien children.

On Thursday, the coalition is bringing together political, civic, community and religious leaders at the Ann and Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 225 E. Chicago, to call “for immediate administrative relief for millions of hardworking undocumented immigrants and to protect the refugee children from Central America.” 

Said Carole Segal, a co-chairman of the coalition and a co-founder of Crate and Barrel, “We are losing really good workers. We are causing families to be torn apart.”

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