President Barack Obama said on Monday he would take executive action to reform the U.S. immigration system after hopes of passing legislation in Congress officially died.
Republican John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, told Obama last week that his chamber would not vote on immigration reform this year, killing chances that a wide-ranging bill passed by the Senate would become law.
The collapse of the legislative process delivers another in a series of blows to Obama’s domestic policy agenda and comes as he struggles to deal with a flood of unaccompanied minors from Central America who have entered the United States.
It also sets up a new battle with congressional Republicans, who accuse Obama of going beyond his legal authority to take executive action on several issues.
Obama chided House Republicans for refusing to bring immigration reform to a vote and said only legislation could provide a permanent fix to the problem.
“I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a … bill is bad for our security; it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.
“America cannot wait forever for them to act. That’s why today I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”
The president directed Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to move enforcement resources from the U.S. interior to the border to promote public safety. He said he asked his team to prepare recommendations on other actions he can take unilaterally by the end of the summer.
Monday was another chapter in a long-festering test of wills between Obama and Boehner about the direction the country should go. They have battled over healthcare, deficits, government spending and gun control. Compromises have been rare and could be even more elusive if Republicans increase their majority in the House in November elections and seize control of the Senate.
Boehner inflamed tensions with the White House last week by announcing he was considering a lawsuit charging the president with overstepping his constitutional boundaries with the series of executive actions he has pursued all year.