President Barack Obama has ordered the postponement of a review of U.S. deportation policy until the end of summer, hoping to give legislative reform a better chance in Congress, officials said Tuesday.
Obama called on Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to "hold on the release" of the results and recommendations of a review of procedures for deportation, the officials said.
Obama in March directed the government to examine whether deportation practices can be made more humane, seeking to pacify frustrated immigration advocates. But that emboldened House Republicans to argue they can't trust Obama to enforce the law, and that bypassing lawmakers through executive action would deliver a death knell to the broader immigration overhaul that Obama and Democrats are seeking.
"The president really wants to maximize the opportunity to get a permanent solution enacted, which requires Congress," said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council.
The delay defuses an emerging split among traditional Obama allies that emerged after the president commissioned the deportation review.
Some immigration advocates and Democrats urged Obama to take immediate executive action in the face of congressional procrastination. But others insisted the focus should remain on pressuring House Republicans to act while there's still a chance — however slim — to pass a bill that could provide a path to citizenship for the 11.5 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
"We've got maybe a window of two, three months to get the ball rolling in the House of Representatives," Obama said earlier this month.
That window, White House officials said, has opened now that primary elections have wrapped up in many states where Republican incumbents are being challenged by tea party candidates who oppose an immigration overhaul. But a make-or-break deadline comes when lawmakers leave Washington for a month-long August recess to focus on campaigning.
"If they don't pass immigration reform then, the president will have no choice but to act on his own," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week.
Obama informed Johnson of his decision to delay the review during a White House meeting last week in which Johnson updated the president on the review's progress, a senior White House official said. Homeland Security will continue working on the review but won't release the results until the window for congressional action has closed, said the official, who wasn't authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.
Al Jazeera and wires services