The White House said Wednesday that President Obama delayed his decision on immigration reform until after the midterm elections because he didn’t want Republicans to win on the issue and become emboldened by it.
“The concern is that, had the president moved forward with his announcement prior to Election Day, you would have seen Republican candidates do more to make the immigration issue central to their campaign,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “And in the event that they were successful in their campaign, the concern would be that they would cite their opposition to immigration reform as a reason for their success.”
He added, “That is not a storyline that the president wanted, or that anybody here wanted to contribute to.”
Mr. Earnest’s explanation went a bit beyond previous justifications for the delay, which were mainly that Mr. Obama didn’t want to inject the subject into a partisan election.
The president is expected to take executive action in the lame-duck session of Congress on immigration, likely to include a broadening of deportation waivers for some of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.
Mr. Earnest said the White House believes the “vast majority of congressional races” won’t be swayed by candidates who oppose immigration reform.
But he said the president’s decision to postpone an announcement was “less an issue about trying to dictate or influence the outcome of the elections and more about making sure that the immigration issue is not a casualty of the post-election political analysis.”
“That’s the — that is a complicated case to make, but it is important to protecting the political viability of an issue that the president thinks is a top domestic priority, and that’s immigration reform,” he said.