(CNN) — President Barack Obama will not take any executive actions on immigration until after November’s elections, a White House official confirmed to CNN on Saturday.
The decision to postpone means any political repercussions for trying to reform the immigration system by himself would come after the congressional midterm contests.
But people on both sides of the immigration debate criticized the postponement Saturday, including pro-immigration reform groups that are impatient for action.
Obama has been weighing executive action on immigration — including moves that could allow millions of undocumented workers to remain in the country — after congressional action on the issue stalled. The options could include expanding a deferred deportation program for children of immigrants.
But he decided to delay any move to “take this issue away from those who would use it to score points as a kind of grandstanding issue,” the White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It’s too big of an issue to allow it to be used as a tool for people trying to get votes,” the official said. “It isn’t about votes for any particular candidate; it’s about dealing with this issue in an environment that avoids the grandstanding we’ve seen in the past.”
The White House informed members of Congress about the President’s decision, said a Democratic source, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
Republican Scott Brown, the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts who is now running for Senate from New Hampshire, ripped the move, saying it was a cynical ploy to protect Obama’s fellow Democrats for the elections.
Republicans have opposed Obama’s threat to take executive action, saying among other things that the President shouldn’t remove Congress from the equation. Some GOP lawmakers had suggested holding up a bill funding federal agencies — thus forcing a government shutdown — if Obama took unilateral action.
“President Obama’s decision to delay executive action to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants until after the election is of little comfort to people like myself who believe in the rule of law,” said Brown, who faces Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in November.
House Speaker John Boehner said Saturday there was “never a ‘right’ time” for the President to take action by himself.
“But the decision to simply delay this deeply controversial and possibly unconstitutional unilateral action until after the election — instead of abandoning the idea altogether — smacks of raw politics,” the top House Republican said.
Pro-immigration reform groups also weren’t impressed.
The website of one group, United We Dream, displayed a message Saturday that Obama “has further cemented his legacy as the #DeporterInChief by delaying the usage of his executive authority to stop the deportation of millions of immigrants.”
Cristina Jimenez of United We Dream said: “The President’s latest broken promise is another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community.”
Obama had been expected to announce executive actions on the issue soon. Just last week, the White House said Obama wouldn’t forestall the move in the face of Republican threats of a government shutdown.
Asked Friday whether he was considering a delay, Obama said: “I want to be very clear: My intention is, in the absence of action by Congress, I’m going to do what I can do within the legal constraints of my office — because it’s the right thing to do for the country.”