WASHINGTON – It’s their fault, President Barack Obama said Monday in blaming Republican inaction on immigration reform for escalating problems including a surge of undocumented children crossing the border from Mexico.
At a hastily scheduled Rose Garden appearance, Obama said the top House Republican — Speaker John Boehner — told him last week that the chamber’s GOP majority will continue blocking a vote on a Senate-passed immigration bill.
In response, Obama said he was starting “a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder will “identify additional actions my administration can take within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can,” the President said.
“If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” he said, adding he expected the recommendations by the end of summer and would act on them without delay.
“The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, is bad for our economy, is bad for our future,” Obama said. “America cannot wait forever for them to act.”
Obama’s statement sought to vilify Republicans for the failure to get congressional approval for immigration reform, an issue important to his base.
“Pass a bill. Solve a problem. Don’t just say no on something that everybody agrees needs to be done,” he said, repeating his contention that a bill would win bipartisan approval if Boehner allowed it to come to a vote in the House.
President Barack Obama
Conservative Republicans oppose the Senate plan passed last year with support from both parties support because it includes a pathway to legal status for immigrants living illegally in the United States.
They also fear that such a reform measure would bolster already strong Democratic support among Hispanic Americans, the nation’s largest minority.
For his part, Boehner said Monday that Republicans don’t trust Obama to enforce laws they might pass.
“Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue,” he said in a statement after Obama spoke. “The crisis at our southern border reminds us all of the critical importance of fixing our broken immigration system.”
“Sad and disappointing”
He continued, “It is sad and disappointing that — faced with this challenge — President Obama won’t work with us, but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can’t and won’t fix these problems.”
Boehner noted that previous executive action by Obama to halt deportations of some undocumented children led to the current border crisis by “giving false hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally they will be allowed to stay.”
In his statement, Obama announced he was ordering a shift in security resources to border regions, and he promised the additional action he can take “without Congress but within his existing authorities to fix as much of our broken immigration system as we can.”
The President also sent Congress a letter asking that legislators work with him on providing additional money and leeway to deal with the situation on the southern border.
On Sunday, an administration official told CNN the money — which could exceed $2 billion — would go to securing appropriate space for the detention of children but also stemming the tide of immigrants.
The government hopes to increase its ability to investigate and dismantle smuggling organizations as well as quickly return children and adults to their home countries if they do not qualify for asylum, according to that official.
So far, the federal government has struggled to process and accommodate the influx of illegal human traffic but specifically the spike in children.
U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 to 80,000 children without parents will cross the border this year in what the White House is calling an “immediate humanitarian crisis.”
Earlier in June, the White House announced a plan to spend millions in a government-wide response by sending aide to governments in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to help with crime and violence prevention.
In mid-June, Vice President Joe Biden also spoke with leaders in the three countries as well as Mexico about working together to promote security.
Biden’s objective was to emphasize that adults arriving with their children in the United States don’t meet the requirements for a policy that defers deportation for children brought to the United States before June 15, 2012.
Obama also spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about the issue and has warned families who see the dangerous trip as the best option for their children.