WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are warning that any steps President Barack Obama takes to bypass Congress to ease deportations of immigrants illegally in the United States would severely hurt chances of overhauling the nation's immigration laws.
The White House announced late Thursday that Obama was directing his homeland security chief, Jeh Johnson, to review America's deportation program, with an eye toward finding more humane ways to enforce the law without contravening it.
The move came amid pressure from some of Obama's staunchest allies to act on his own to slow the rate of deportations. Under Obama's leadership, almost 2 million people have been removed from the U.S.
The office of House Speaker John Boehner cautioned that fixes to the immigration system should be carried out by Congress, not by the president on his own.
"There's no doubt we have an immigration system that is failing families and our economy, but until it is reformed through the democratic process, the president is obligated to enforce the laws we have," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Friday. "Failing to do so would damage - perhaps beyond repair - our ability to build the trust necessary to enact real immigration reform."
The White House directive to the Department of Homeland Security was announced after an Oval Office meeting Thursday evening with three Latino lawmakers.
The step was unexpected, coming from a president who said as recently as last week that when it came to deportations, he's already stretched his presidential powers to the max.
Preferring a lasting legislative solution for one of Obama's top priorities, the White House had wanted to avoid this course, knowing that any steps Obama takes that are perceive as overreaching will only give Republicans excuses to avoid dealing with immigration. After all, the GOP has already cast Obama as a president gone wild, citing endless changes to his health care law and his move to allow children brought to the U.S. illegally to stay here.