In what observers are calling a classic example of "bait and switch," after months of promising to take executive action on immigration reform this summer, officials confirmed on Saturday that President Barack Obama is now further delaying legislation until after midterm elections.
In an email quoted by the Washington Post, the unnamed White House spokesperson writes that the President "has had many conversations and consultations" on the issue.
"The reality the President has had to weigh is that we’re in the midst of the political season," the email continues, "and because of the Republicans’ extreme politicization of this issue, the President believes it would be harmful to the policy itself and to the long-term prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to announce administrative action before the elections."
The source concludes by saying that the President is "confident in his authority to act, and he will before the end of the year."
The news is a dramatic reversal of a promise Obama made in a June 30 speech, during which he declared that he had tasked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder with presenting him a list "before the end of summer" of possible ways the administration can bypass Congress to "fix" our immigration system. Obama added that, once received, he intends "to adopt those recommendations without further delay."
"Where we have demanded leadership and courage from both Democrats and the President, we’ve received nothing but broken promises and a lack of political backbone."
—Cristina Jimenez, managing director for United we Dream
"If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours," Obama vowed.
The announcement comes a day after Obama told reporters in Wales at the conclusion of the NATO summit there that he would be making an announcement "soon" on comprehensive immigration reform.
In response to the news, immigrant rights group United We Dream issued a scathing statement saying that it is clear that the Democratic leadership and the President "are more interested in politics than in protecting immigrant families.”
"Where we have demanded leadership and courage from both Democrats and the President, we’ve received nothing but broken promises and a lack of political backbone," said Cristina Jimenez, managing director for United we Dream. "To wait nine more weeks means the President has agreed to deport more than 70,000 people, more than 1,100 every day, and continues cementing his legacy as the Deporter-in-Chief."
Reporting on the political maneuvering ahead of the announcement, Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent surmised that the decision to act on immigration, like most party politics, rests on whatever demographic is most needed in districts where Senate Democrats predict a tight race.
"Dem hopes for survival rest heavily on turning out the unmarried women who are increasingly key to the Dem coalition but sit out midterms," Sargent writes, adding, "Latinos are not a major factor in these races."
Latino voters historically back Democratic candidates, particularly in presidential races. In the 2012 election, Latinos voted for Obama 71% over Republican candidate Mitt Romney, according to Pew Research exit polling.
In her statement, Jimenez vows that immigrants and immigrant rights groups "will not soon forget the President and Democrats’ latest failure and their attempts to fool the Latino community."
In an update to his Saturday report, Sargent notes that a Senate Democrat contacted him after the story ran to alert him that "White House staff privately urged Senate Democratic leaders not to publicly suggest any end-of-summer deadline for action on deportations because there was always a chance of delay."