For the past several weeks, President Obama and other White House officials have suggested that the administration will be announcing major changes to immigration policy by the end of the summer — i.e. before the midterm elections in November.
Over Labor Day weekend, however, rumors started swirling that the administration was getting cold feet and is now debating whether to wait until after the midterms to announce executive action.
The administration is expected to give protection from deportation to many unauthorized immigrants — perhaps even millions of them. The question right now is whether that policy will be announced in the next few weeks. If it isn't, the administration might make smaller changes to enforcement policy (like continuing to send federal agents to the border instead of the interior) before the election, and wait until after the election to announce broad deportation protections.
It's worth noting that this would be the second time that the Obama administration has put these plans on hold. Here's the 90-second timeline:
The reason for the uncertainty: Democrats don't agree about the political impact Obama's executive action will have.
Many Senate Democrats, in particular, are worried that if Obama announces major actions before the elections, it will help the GOP retake the Senate in November. As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post explains: "In the core red states that will decide Senate control, there are very few genuinely persuadable voters left. Base turnout will be decisive. Any action by Obama risks further inflaming the GOP base."
Others, however — such as Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO — believe that the Republican base is already enraged with Obama's immigration policy, so the downside of a big pre-election move would be pretty small. Meanwhile, Trumka argues, a big move could help energize the Democrats' progressive base. (The tightest Senate races this year aren't in states with a large Latino population, which would be the most energized by a big immigration move.)