President Barack Obama Friday signaled he’ll declare an unpopular amnesty for many illegal immigrants — but only after Americans have cast their ballots in the November elections.
“I intended to take action … and give people some path so they can start paying taxes, pay a fine and learn English, be able to not look over their shoulder, and be legal since they’ve been living here quite some time,” he told reporters during a Friday press conference in Wales, at a NATO summit.
However, he pointedly declined to say when he would announce the amnesty, which he had earlier promised would come at “the end of summer.”
“I’ll be making an announcement soon, but I want to be very clear, in the absence of action by Congress … it’s the right thing to do for the country.”
The announcement is a leftward lurch in Obama’s immigration policy, and it follows numerous recent signals that he would backtrack on his promise to provide work permits to millions of illegals by the end of summer.
Numerous Senate Democrats on the ballot in November have asked the president to delay the unilateral end-of-summer amnesty, which is opposed by lopsided majorities of swing voters, traditional Democratic voters, single women, Hispanics and Republican-leaning voters.
In July, Americans tagged illegal immigration as the nation’s most important problem, according to Gallup. Seventeen percent of 1,013 Americans — and 23 percent of GOP supporters — identified “immigration/illegal aliens” as their top political priority.
But the proposed amnesty is backed by progressives, the Democratic Party’s Latino advocates, government unions, wealthy investors and by business, all of which will profit from a massive inflow of low-skill, low-wage foreigners who are dependent on government aid.
Latino leaders have strenuously complained about Obama’s backtracking.
But Obama’s freedom of maneuver is aided because GOP leaders are trying to avoid a clash on the immigration topic.
On Sept. 2, for example, House Speaker John Boehner merely warned that unilateral action by the president would make it harder to craft an immigration compromise in 2015.
“There’s a possibility that Congress could take this issue up next year,” Boehner said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. “But if that were going to happen, there are things that he should do, and things he should not do as we lead up to this … adhering to the law is a minimum requirement from the president.”
Many GOP candidates, however, are hammering their Democratic opponents on immigration. In New Hampshire, Scott Brown, for example, has highlighted the huge inflow of 130,000 Central American illegals over the border this summer. Other GOP candidates are hitting harder, by saying Democrats are allowing a greater supply of labor to compete for Americans’ jobs and to reduce wages.
Under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty, Obama has awarded more than a half million work permits to younger illegals during a time of record underemployment, including high underemployment among his supporters in the African-American community.
Last June, the Senate passed an immigration bill that would roughly double the annual inflow of immigrants and guest workers to roughly match the number of Americans who turn 18 each year. If implemented, it would ensure that the new labor supply would be more than 50 percent higher than the annual supply of native-born Americans. A June 2013 report by the CBO said the bill would drag down wages, budget up unemployment and steer more of the nation’s income to wealthy investors.
Because of the polls, GOP leaders refused to allow a House vote on the Senate plan.
The GOP’s rejection of the Senate plan “has damaged the economy, it has held America back, it is a mistake,” Obama said in Wales.
A July 2014 poll of 1,044 Americans by The Associated Press and GfK Public Affairs showed that strong approval of Obama’s immigration policies has slipped from 22 percent in May, to only 18 percent strong approval in July. Strong disapproval climbed from 43 percent to 57 percent, marking a 18-point shift away from Obama since May, said the AP/GfK poll. (RELATED: U.S.S. Obama Hits Immigration Iceberg)
Other surveys show that swing voters oppose Obama’s policies, that many Hispanics also oppose Obama’s lax enforcement policies, that Americans view immigration as an economic issue and that the high-tech economy is expected to boost unemployment among lower-skilled Americans.
Despite the flood of economic and polling data, Obama insisted Sept. 5 that an amnesty “is the right thing to do for the country.”