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We're Heading for a Showdown Over Deportations We're Heading for a Showdown Over Deportations

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We're Heading for a Showdown Over Deportations

The Obama administration is expected to make "modest" changes, while Republicans are already up in arms.

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Students calling for an end to deportations block a Los Angeles freeway ramp in 2012.(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The prospects for immigration reform have come to a standstill. And with the heat increasing on the Obama administration from anti-deportation advocates, something is about to give.

The administration is expected to announce the results of the Homeland Security Department's deportation policy review within the coming weeks, the The Wall Street Journal reports. The outcome will be much more modest than what many activists have been clamoring for: Rather than deferring deportation proceedings for millions here illegally, actions under review could affect a smaller number of people who have been in the U.S. for a long time, but have minor or no criminal violations. Last year, such people represented 50,000 deportations.

 

Expect such relief to be welcomed by advocates, but still leave many dissatisfied that it has not gone far enough.

On the flip side, such actions—really, any deportation executive action—will be used as further ammunition in the defense against doing anything on immigration policy this year. Republicans, even those who have spoken in favor of immigration reform, have said it can't happen while lawmakers don't trust the president to enforce laws already on the books.

Want to get an indication of where this is all heading? Just take a look at this letter, signed by 22 Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, sent to Obama on Thursday. They write, "According to reports, the changes under consideration would represent a near complete abandonment of basic immigration enforcement and discard the rule of law and the notion that the United States has enforceable borders."

 

The Republicans also criticize Obama for directing previous changes, such as prosecutorial discretion and allowing the deferral of deportation proceedings for so-called dreamers. "Your actions demonstrate an astonishing disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law, and the rights of American citizens and legal residents," they write.

Strong executive action on deportation policy could easily be interpreted as "completely writing off immigration reform until 2016," Theresa Cardinal Brown, the immigration-policy director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, previously told me. But modest action—combined with few legislative calendar days left in this midterm election year and sharp rhetoric about presidential overreach—means the likelihood that reform will happen this year is pretty low. Having the two sides agree on how a phone call went is even a tall order when discussing immigration.

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