POLITICS

Congressional Hispanic Caucus comes under fire after it backs Obama's delay on immigration

A Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) resolution asking President Obama to take executive action on immigration before the end of the year is drawing fire from groups that say the administration has been dragging its feet for too long.

On Thursday, the CHC, which has an all-Democratic membership, passed a resolution that both expressed frustration over the repeated delays by the president to move unilaterally on changing aspects of immigration policy and demanded that he take action before the end of the year.

The resolution urged Obama to "act boldly and use all legal means available to provide immediate and temporary relief from deportation to qualified immigrant workers and immigrant families."

Obama earlier this year promised that, given congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration legislation, he would act on his own by the end of the summer. He has made similar promises in recent years.

But the president then said he would delay moving ahead unilaterally until after the midterm election, reportedly because Democrats in Congress expressed concern that executive action would hurt their re-election chances.

Some immigrant activist groups are upset about the CHC's resolution, characterizing its members as sellouts for what they see as a rubber-stamp of the president’s latest delay in taking action.

“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus resolution does not adequately reflect the views of undocumented immigrants, their families or the immigrant rights community at large,” said Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). “The CHC should not acquiesce to the president's most recent timeline.”

“There is clearly a failure of leadership in Washington, D.C., that extends well beyond the White House,” Alvarado said in a statement, “and it is time to tell the truth about those who put partisan interests above the welfare of those who propelled them into positions of leadership.”

Advocates of more lenient immigration policies increasingly have directed their anger over inaction in Congress on deportations and providing relief to millions of undocumented immigrants at Obama, who has presided over more deportations during his tenure than any other president.

“We insist that the president act with the full extent of his legal authority today, not after the election,” Alvarado said, “to prevent unnecessary suffering and injustice caused by his brutal deportation policy, and we will continue to insist that the president meet directly with undocumented immigrants and their families.”

Efforts to obtain a comment by the CHC about the criticism against it were unsuccessful.

Initially, caucus members openly expressed their exasperation with the president. Last week, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough met with some members to try to smooth things over.

According to lawmakers who attended, McDonough heard their concerns and renewed the president's commitment to act — pledging under questioning that it would happen even if Democrats lose the Senate, the political environment turns worse and Obama once again faces calls to put off such action.

The CHC resolution gives Obama some credit for pushing a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill passed in the Senate in 2013 but stalled in the House, asserting that the president "continues to support a bipartisan legislative solution to permanently fix our immigration laws."

One of the congressmen who attended the meeting last week with the White House chief of staff, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., said, "We told [McDonough] we were mad. We thought for sure he was going to act because he said he would – we're very upset about that."

Vargas added, "At the same time we got the promise that [the president] is going to act as generously as he possibly can before the end of the holiday season."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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