Obama in political bind over border crisis with illegal children

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Eli Kantor, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, said that message has not yet sunk in with people south of the border.

“On the Texas border, there’s a lot of disinformation that if you come as an unaccompanied minor, that you’ll get a ‘proviso,’” Mr. Kantor said. “And a lot of them actually are able to stay,” at least temporarily, by claiming special status as a refugee or a victim of abuse, he said.

Mr. Kantor, a spokesman for the American Immigration Attorneys Association, said he expects Mr. Obama to take limited executive action to ease deportations later this year. 

“I think what he’s going to do … is to expand DACA to different categories of people, a broader segment,” Mr. Kantor said. “I think Obama will do something to mollify critics on the left.”

Ms. Meissner, who served as commissioner of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, said Mr. Johnson’s review of deportation policies has likely been delayed by the border crisis.

“The key players are absolutely preoccupied with the southern border issue right now,” she said. “I could see that they might make some policy shift later in the year, when some of this has settled down again.”

The loss of Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, in his primary earlier this month also increases the likelihood that the House won’t act on immigration reform, Ms. Meissner said. 

Although she discounts the view that Mr. Cantor’s relatively moderate stance on immigration reform contributed to his defeat, she said other Republican lawmakers do believe immigration issues played a role.

“That’s the takeaway that many members of Congress have drawn from the experience,” she said. “That makes the Congress even more cautious and willing to criticize the administration, and makes it certain that they’re not going to be enacting any new legislation.”

Mr. Obama has declared this election year as his “year of action,” having already taken more than 20 executive actions to move forward with his agenda when Congress doesn’t agree. But an executive order on immigration could further motivate Republican voters, already fired up over Obamacare and what they view as the president’s misuse of his executive authority.

House Republicans said this week they are preparing to file a lawsuit against Mr. Obama for abusing his presidential powers. Ms. Meissner said any presidential move on immigration would add fuel to the GOP’s argument.

“The House has not once dropped an opportunity to cast this in terms of unwillingness to execute the law, that the actions he’s already taken are a sign that the president is lawless, that he’s in violation of his oath,” she said.

The president’s aides say Mr. Obama is increasingly frustrated at congressional inaction, because the Senate legislation is the best solution to improve the immigration system.

“None of those [executive action options] will be a substitute for the kind of congressional action that we’d like to see,” Mr. Earnest said.


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