President Barack Obama delayed his planned unilateral amnesty until after the election to prevent GOP legislators or the media from recognizing it as an election-winner for the GOP, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
“Had the president moved forward with his announcement prior to election day, you would have seen Republican candidates do more to make the immigration issue central to their campaign, and in the event they were successful in their campaign, the concern would be that they would cite their opposition to immigration reform as a reason for their success,” Earnest told reporters Oct. 8.
“It is important to protect the political viability of an issue that the president thinks is a top domestic priority, and that’s immigration reform,” Earnest said.
“That is an unusual moment of candor,” said one Hill aide, who opposes Obama’s planned rollback of immigration enforcement for several million illegals.
“The president has effectively said through his spokesman to the American people ‘If you like your borders, you can keep them, but only if you defeat Democratic senators this cycle,’” the aide told The Daily Caller.
The public will back Republicans in 2014 and 2016 who oppose the planned amnesty, he said, because “there is no issue that is more visceral than who you let into the country and in what numbers.”
In early September, Obama announced he would delay his planned enforcement rollback from the end of summer, to the end of the year.
Those polls have largely been ignored by establishment reporters, who frequently suggest that Americans want increased immigration, despite the lousy economy.
Earnest said White House officials don’t want Republicans or the media concluding that immigration is an election-winner for Republicans.
That is not a story line that the president wanted, or that anyone here wanted to contribute to,” he said.
Delaying the unilateral action “is less an issue about try to dictate or influence the outcome of the elections and more about making sure that the immigration issue is not a casualty of the post election political analysis,” he said.
Since last year, growing public opposition has persuaded the GOP leadership to reverse its initial support for the Senate’s “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” bill.
The amnesty and guest-worker bill was backed by Obama, progressives and business interests because it would have amnestied at least 12 million illegals and doubled the annual inflow of legal immigrants and guest-workers. That inflow would have matched the number of young Americans who enter the workforce each year, likely stalling wages and widening the wealth gap.
But the GOP’s top leaders aren’t pushing back against Obama’s end-of-year amnesty, said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
“The Republican leadership is cooperating with Obama in trying to downplay this election as a referendum on his amnesty,” Krikorian said.
Some GOP candidates, such as Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Terry Lynn Land in Michigan and Scott Brown in New Hampshire are raising the immigration issue, he said. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and and allies of Karl Rove — both of which are close to business donors — have quietly used the issue too.
However, only Cotton is challenging his opponent on amnesty, he said, even though two-thirds of the GOP caucus voted against the Obama-backed immigration bill in June 2013.
“Two-thirds of the Republican caucus in the Senate voted the right way, and it mystifies me why they would not want to offend [Sen. John McCain plus other GOP amnesty supporters] and instead, side with the majority of the Republicans in the Senate,” he said.
“Clearly, there’s no question that the Democrats were running away from this immigration issue,” Krikorian said.
But “the opportunity for Republicans is to sharpen the debate over this issue, to clarify it, and say ‘Let’s have a clear vote on this and see what people want,’” he added.