By Julia Edwards
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama asked his administration on Tuesday to hold off on making any changes to the nation's deportation policy until the end of the summer in order to allow Congress time to pass immigration legislation, administration officials said.
The move signaled the White House’s renewed optimism in the ability of Republicans in the House of Representatives to pass broad immigration reform. In March, convinced the chances of passing such a bill through a divided Congress were slim, Obama asked the Department of Homeland Security to review U.S. deportation policy and suggest ways the administration could act without Congress to ease the threat of deportation for undocumented immigrants under existing law.
House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, have indicated in recent weeks they might be open to working on such a bill. But they said any changes from the Obama administration would weaken their trust in the president to enforce whatever law they may pass. Wishing to "enact a permanent solution" for undocumented immigrants, Obama plans to wait to see if House Republicans will indeed bring immigration reform up for a vote before they take a legislative recess in August, a White House official told Reuters.
“It’s time for them to act and the President didn’t want the discussion of the Secretary’s review to interfere with the possibility of action in the House,” said the White House official.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. immigrant groups cautioned the president against acting prematurely and disrupting the chances of legislative reform that could be more effective at protecting immigrant rights.
"We believe the President should move cautiously and give the House Leadership all of the space they may need to bring legislation to the floor for a vote," the advocate groups, including the National Immigration Forum and the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement.
But the statement added that should July pass without a new immigration law, the Obama administration will "have an obligation to use whatever tools are at its disposal."
(Reporting by Julia Edwards and Jeff Mason; Editing by Dan Grebler and Eric Walsh)