Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez and a group of immigrant-rights activists urged President Barack Obama Wednesday to unilaterally reduce deportations before the November elections, despite concerns such action could hurt vulnerable Democrats at the polls.
"Why wait until after the election?" the Illinois Democrat asked on a conference call with reporters, one day after White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest ducked questions on whether the president, who had promised action by summer's end, is now considering waiting until after Nov. 4.
The Illinois Democrat and representatives from several activist groups said the political pluses for the Democratic Party far outweigh the minuses.
"We may lose seats in the House, we may lose seats in the Senate. Then they will simply say, 'Oh, there they go, protecting those immigrants afterwards why didn't they do it before? Because they were afraid.' Let's not be afraid of standing for our values, of standing for what we believe in as Democrats."
He said Democrats who are publicly and privately urging caution from the White House have the political calculus wrong.
"I think I know what is in the president's heart. So I say to the Democrats, stand aside, let the president make the decision, let him announce it. Stop this stopping the progress of our community toward justice."
Gutierrez's comments also came one day after Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said on conservative radio talker Hugh Hewitt's show that bipartisan immigration efforts, which died earlier this summer after the issue played a role in the primary defeat of former majority leader Eric Cantor, could resurface next year in the 114th Congress — if Obama doesn't blow it.
"I’ve outlined to the president in July that the House, the Congress, ought to be dealing with immigration reform," Boehner said. "It wasn’t likely to happen this year because of the flood on the border, and the president’s own pounding his chest about using his phone and his pen. But I did outline that, you know, there’s a possibility that Congress could take this issue up next year."
Gutiérrez, the leading proponent of immigrant rights on Capitol Hill, was joined on the press call by Lorella Praeli of United We Dream and Frank Sharry of America’s Voice.
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