Democrats Praise Obama for Immigration Action, but Wanted More

Fasting immigration reform activists in front of the White House listen to President Barack Obama's speech on his executive action on immigration policies Nov. 20. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

While Republicans in Congress aren't holding back on their criticism of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration, some Democrats are trying to navigate a more difficult position: Supporting the president's action while also arguing he could have gone further.  

Some of the strongest congressional proponents of an immigration overhaul — Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Sen. Robert J. Menendez, D-N.J. — held a conference call Monday to discuss the president's action. And while all three were effusive in their praise, it was also clear they believe Obama could have put forward a more ambitious executive order.  

"We made the argument that he could go further," Gutierrez said on the conference call. "We lost that argument.” Lofgren specifically mentioned that, "moving forward," she hoped the president would act to protect migrant farm workers, while Gutierrez mentioned a number of different cases where people called his office to determine if if they were covered — only to find out they were not.  

"The president was cautious," Gutierrez said. "The president was careful. I am thankful to him for the discretion."  

Gutierrez repeatedly praised the president for his action, and even if he thought Obama should have done more, he wanted to present a unified Democratic front.  

“I think he made the right decision, and I’m going to stand by him. I’m not going to second-guess the president," Gutierrez said, even as he did just that.  

Instead of arguing for expanded action, Gutierrez said his focus would be on signing up as many of the roughly 5 million people who do qualify for deferred deportation as possible.  

Gutierrez's defense seemed to be that Obama "erred" on the side making sure his action would hold up in court.  

But all the participants in the phone call stressed that the president's action had not removed the need for Congress to act on immigration.  

"Understand that there's more to do," Lofgren said.  

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