President Barack Obama will delay action on immigration until after congressional midterm elections on November 4.
White House officials Saturday said the president believes taking his own steps on the highly-politicized issue during the midterm campaign would hurt efforts to pass a broad overhaul. But they say he still plans to act before the end of the year.
In an interview set to air Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, Obama said the decision to wait was taken to ensure that his executive actions are "sustainable." He also said it allows more time for the public to "understand what the facts are on immigration, what we've done on [the issue of] unaccompanied children [on the U.S. southern border], and why it's necessary."
The postponement is widely seen as easing pressure on Democrats in vulnerable Senate seats, who are drawing political fire from Republicans largely opposed to what they see as an amnesty for migrants, and from immigration activists who want action now.
Some polls have indicated that Republicans could deepen their hold on the House in the November elections, and potentially gain control of the Senate as well.
With reform legislation stalled in Congress, President Obama promised earlier this year to take executive action. On Friday the president signaled that a significant policy shift was forthcoming on immigration reform, but sidestepped questions about whether he would wait until after November.
Obama told reporters during a news conference in Wales that his plan would include more enforcement for illegal immigration and steps to encourage legal immigration, and would address the politically contentious question of how to deal fairly with millions of undocumented people who have lived in the United States for years.
"Some path so they can start paying taxes, pay a fine and learn English, and be able to not look over their shoulder but be legal since they've been living here for quite some time,” he said.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said the decision to delay "smacks of raw politics," and that there is never a "right" time for the president to sidestep Congress and "declare amnesty by executive action."
Immigration reform activist Frank Sharry also criticized the postponement, saying his group, America's Voice, is "bitterly disappointed" in Obama and with Senate Democrats, whom he accused of choosing "politics over people."
Obama "has broken yet another promise to the Latino community," said Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas, directors of the DREAM Action Coalition, in a statement.
In addition to the 11 million people already living in the United States illegally, the country has been struggling to deal with a surge in migrant children crossing the border from Mexico.