AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Thursday called on President Obama to take “bold” action with executive orders to ease immigration laws, including stopping deportations for most of America’s roughly 11 million illegal aliens.
But the labor leader expressed some doubts that Mr. Obama would do enough.
“He is going to do something. I hope it’s bold enough to be worthwhile,” Mr. Trumka said at a breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Mr. Obama is expected to soon announce executive actions to limit deportations. He promised to act before the end of the summer after the effort for comprehensive immigration reform stalled in Congress.
Mr. Trumka urged Mr. Obama to grant legal status to all undocumented residents who would be eligible for a 13-year path to citizenship included in a Senate immigration reform bill that passed this year, which would cover most of American’s illegal alien population.
“Everybody who could become a citizen under the Senate bill should be exempted [from deportation] right now,” Mr. Trumka said.
The Senate bill stalled in the GOP-run House, where the immigration reform effort faces stiff resistance from Republican lawmakers that oppose “amnesty” for illegal immigrants or don’t trust the White House will secure the border.
Mr. Trumka warned that if Mr. Obama used his executive authority to only nibble at the edges of U.S. immigration laws, stopping short of suspending deportations for most undocumented residents, it would still energize the president’s conservative foes while undermining support from his liberal and Hispanic allies.
Conservatives will go “bonkers” regardless of the extent of the executive orders, he said, but bold action will “energize” the left and help elect more Democrats in the midterm elections.
Mr. Trumka dismissed concerns that if Mr. Obama acts too aggressively on immigration it could hurt vulnerable Senate Democrats, potentially helping Republicans who are poised to win majority control of the upper chamber this year.
“There may be some areas where it is not as successful as others, but overall I think it’s a plus,” he said.