President Obama said Monday that because Congress refuses to act on immigration reform, he is ready to fix as much of the broken system as he can on his own.
The threat, made as tens of thousands of immigrants from Central America continue to flood over the country's southern border into Texas, was directed at House Republicans who he said have refused to vote on an omnibus immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate last year.
Obama said he would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to provide him with a list of options his administration could take within “existing legal authorities.”
“I expect the recommendations before the end of the summer, and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay,” he said.
The only immediate action the administration will take is to shift funds around from existing sources to place more resources on the border. Obama said he will direct DHS and Holder to “move available and appropriate resources from our interior to the border.”
“Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority," Obama said, "but we are going to refocus our efforts where we can to make sure we do what it takes to keep our border secure."
The migrant surge of the last several weeks has further polarized a country already divided on immigration reform. Republicans blame the administration’s policies for confusing undocumented immigrants and luring them northward. Democrats counter that violence and poverty have spurred the exodus, citing the rates of homicides in Central American countries. According to a 2014 United Nations report, Honduras is the most violent country in the world. El Salvador and Guatemala are fourth and fifth, respectively.
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the current surge at the border is a reminder that the nation's immigration system in broken. But he said the president had refused to work with his party.
“President Obama won't work with us, but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can't and won't fix these problems,” he said in a statement. “The president’s own executive orders have led directly to the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, giving false hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally they will be allowed to stay.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, added: “Given the current crisis on the southern border, how can the president consider more pen and phone policy changes that will lead to another surge of illegal immigration and put more lives in danger?”
Republicans have said White House policies like 2012’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has given some Central American families false hope about what awaits them after they enter the country.
The policy grants certain undocumented immigrants a work permit and relief from deportation proceedings, but it only applies to those who have been in the country since 2007.
Obama said the problem is that the current system is confusing and flawed. And he reiterated that most of the children who have been apprehended on the border will likely be deported.
“The system is so broken, so unclear that folks don’t know what the rules are,” he said.
He added that his previous use of executive action has angered House Republicans, and said the solution to that is to pass legislation. "Pass a bill," he said. "Solve a problem."
The number of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. over its southern border in the last nine months is up 99 percent over the previous fiscal year. That includes a 178 percent increase in the U.S. Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector — from 13,532 to 37,621. The Big Bend, Del Rio and El Paso sectors have seen spikes of 59 percent, 79 percent and 33 percent, respectively, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.