In a speech at the White House Monday, Obama said he will direct Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to identify what actions the administration can take unilaterally. He said he expects a report by the end of the summer and plans to "adopt those without further delay."
Earlier this spring, the president had delayed such a review in the hopes that the House would take some action on moving forward any immigration reform bill, a gesture quickly spurned by House Republicans, even as it angered some of his strongest Democratic supporters.
So Monday, a visibly frustrated president said that he will no longer wait for action from Congress, despite desire on both sides for reform.
"I held off for a long time to give Speaker Boehner the space he needed," Obama said. "Instead they've proven again and again that they're unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what's best for the country."
In comments clearly meant to address the lawsuit Boehner has said he will file against the president for what Republicans say is an overreach of his constitutional authority, Obama stressed his desire to work through legislation -- not executive action -- but said he feels he no longer has a choice.
"I would love nothing more than bipartisan legislation to pass the House, the Senate, land on my desk so I could sign it," he said. "I take executive action only when we have a serious problem and Congress chooses to do nothing, and in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, bad for our economy and bad for our future."
More immediately, the president directed Johnson to move resources for enforcement from the interior of the United States to the border, in addition to the additional $2 billion he asked for from Congress to directly address the influx of unaccompanied children from Central America.
"Our system is so broken, so unclear, that folks don't know what the rules are," he said, adding that he's stepped up a messaging campaign to discourage parents from sending their children.
And even as he laid out plans for executive action, Obama said he still holds out hope for some kind of permanent legislative effort, if not before November's elections, than perhaps after, or early in the new year.
"If they're really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, the best thing they can do is pass a bill," he said. "Don't just say no on something everybody agrees needs to be done, because if we pass a bill, that will supplant whatever I've done administratively."
The influx of children detained at the border has dramatically turned up the heat on a debate over immigration heading into the summer recess. Republicans have pointed at Obama's policy to delay deporting children who entered the country illegally as encouraging families to send their children to the U.S. with the impression that they will be welcomed and allowed to stay.
Both sides have blamed confusion over policies -- the administration and Democrats say it's Republican rhetoric to blame for misinformation -- to score political points heading into the summer.
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