Updated 10:18 p.m. | President Barack Obama told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus leadership Thursday evening he's considering more changes to the enforcement of immigration laws, amid growing unrest among his allies over his deportation record.
"The President emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system," the White House said in a readout of the meeting. "He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law." The readout continued, "The President thanked the Members of the CHC for their work on these challenging issues, and expressed his strong desire to work together to put pressure on Congressional Republicans to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible."
Obama met in the Oval Office with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, CHC Immigration Task Force Chair Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California.
Gutierrez had pointedly called the president the "deporter-in-chief" and "dishonest" on the issue just last week. But Gutierrez sounded positive in a statement late Thursday:
“The President directed Secretary Jeh Johnson to review with the CHC a menu of options that can be implemented to reduce the pain of the current enforcement escalation and end the deportations that separate families. “I will meet with Secretary Johnson next week to present options and then the entire CHC will meet with him to discuss those and other options that the Department of Homeland Security is developing when Congress returns after recess. “Just as important, Republicans should step up to the plate and take action on immigration reform and not abandon the American people on this important issue. And in the absence of action by House Republicans, administrative action is imperative. “It is clear that the pleas from the community got through to the President. The CHC will work with him to keep families together. The President clearly expressed the heartbreak he feels because of the devastating effect that deportations have on families. “This began a new dialogue between the CHC and the White House that had been dormant for too long. The CHC Members who met with the President were adamant that the President needed to act. I agree with the President that the ultimate solution and responsibility for fixing our broken immigration system rests with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and we will work together to demand Republicans take action.”The meeting comes as prospects for an immigration overhaul seem as bleak as ever, with Democrats ripping Republicans for legislation aimed, in part, at rolling back the president's executive actions sparing young people brought here illegally by their parents from deportation. Republicans believe the president has already stepped outside of the law on a range of issues, including halting deportations for the young. And with hopes for an immigration overhaul fading, many immigration advocates have increased pressure on the White House to act unilaterally to halt deportations that break up families, and the Hispanic Caucus has been considering a resolution urging the president to act. Obama has repeatedly resisted doing so.
"Relief delayed is relief denied," said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Labor Organizing Network, in a statement after the meeting. "The President has no excuse to continue his unjust deportation policy, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus should not delay joining what is now a consensus position that the President can and should suspend deportations, expand deferred action, and end the disgraceful Secure Communities program."