The change comes after many expected Congress to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul last year. Republicans have been torn between some in their base who want to step up deportations and others alarmed at how Hispanics, Asians and other fast-growing communities are increasingly leaning Democratic.
The Senate in June passed its bill to legalize, and eventually grant citizenship to, many of the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. But the bill died in the Republican-controlled House. Republican leaders there floated a proposal that would have made some systematic changes but would have stopped short of granting citizenship for large numbers of people here illegally. But Boehner, R-Ohio, acknowledged that it stood little chance of passing.
Meanwhile, Obama’s administration is on track to having deported 2 million people during the past six years. Critics say that’s more than President George W. Bush’s administration deported, though some who push for a tougher immigration policy argue the current administration’s numbers are inflated.
Obama already has eased some deportations. In 2012, as he was trying to generate enthusiasm among Hispanic voters for his re-election, Obama granted people who were brought to the country illegally as children the right to work in the United States and gave them administrative protection from deportation if they had graduated high school or served in the military. Advocates are pressuring the president to expand that to other people here illegally. The administration has said it cannot make sweeping changes without Congress, and it is unclear what steps it will take to make deportations more “humane” after its review is finished.
Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said it’s inevitable that Obama makes changes. “This is a White House that has told the immigrant rights community that they had to build up enforcement massively to create the political climate for comprehensive immigration reform,” Newman said. “Well, that gambit failed.”