Mr. Kobach, who is leading a lawsuit to try to halt Mr. Obama’s nondeportation policy, said the more likely avenue for action is in the states.
He said he expects more of them to adopt Arizona-style laws giving police powers to check the legal status of those with whom they come into contact. The Supreme Court earlier this year upheld that part of Arizona’s law, though it struck down other provisions.
But he also said he expects Mr. Obama to use his own executive powers more, in the face of continued congressional deadlock.
Indeed, immigrant rights advocates said that is exactly what they will ask him to do if Mr. Obama cannot get a legalization bill through Congress.
In his first term, the president walked a tightrope, increasing deportations and instituting new agreements with state and local police and jails to try to identify deportable immigrants. But patience is running thin.
“I think he’s under time pressure because 1 million people have been deported, and we can’t wait around for another year or two as another half-million or million get deported,” said Douglas Rivlin, spokesman for Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, the Illinois Democrat who has taken on leadership of the immigration issue in the House.
“People’s lives are being ruined in the meantime because we have a mass-deportation policy. I know Congressman Gutierrez is going to be very interested in the president calling [Republican Sens.] Lindsey Graham or Marco Rubio or [Mitch] McConnell or whoever he needs to call in the Republican Party, get them to Camp David for the weekend, and see what we can do on immigration reform — sooner rather than later,” Mr. Rivlin said.
Mr. Sharry agreed that Mr. Obama will face pressure to act, but said if president had the will, he could use the threat of unilateral action to force Republicans to the table.
“If he wanted to, what he could do is say, ‘All right, Republicans, work with me on this, or I’m going to use my executive authority to do more popular things that Latinos love,’” he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Obama will still be able to grant tentative legal status to younger immigrants under his deportation policies — something Mr. Vargas has waited for years to earn.
A law school graduate, Mr. Vargas also hopes that the election could convince courts that the new deportation policy is here to stay — which he hopes means he will be able to join the bar and practice law.
“It means a lot to me,” he said Wednesday. “It means I can try to be productive in terms of seeking out employment. It means that my younger brother can also get deferred action.”
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Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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