Senior White House officials are in talks with business leaders that could expand the executive actions President Barack Obama takes on immigration.
Obama was initially expected to focus only on slowing deportations of potentially millions of undocumented immigrants and altering federal enforcement policies. Now top aides are talking with leaders in big companies like Cisco, Intel and Accenture, hoping to add more changes that would get them on board.
Representatives for high-tech, agriculture and construction interests have put forward a range of fixes, from recapturing unused green cards to tweaking existing work authorization programs.
The outreach is an effort to broaden the political support for Obama’s decision to go it alone on immigration — another sign that suggests the White House fears a backlash in November, particularly among independent voters in battleground Senate races where Republicans are seizing on the issue.
“The president has not made a decision regarding next steps, but he believes it’s important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on potential solutions,” said White House spokesman Shawn Turner. “The meetings were in keeping with the president’s commitment to do whatever he can, within the constraints of the law, to address the immigration issue.”
Turner said the meetings with business leaders were among more than 20 “listening sessions” with outside groups.
“They are very seriously looking at a big variety of things to figure out what people think would be helpful,” a source in one of the meetings said, describing the meeting as a “productive listening session.”
Senior administration officials stepped up their engagement with companies and business groups over the past month as they look to produce a series of executive orders starting in September. Aides are asking industry executives for ideas and are trying to earn their support against an expected barrage from Republicans opposed to Obama taking any action.
Obama has pledged to act by the end of the summer, but the timing is a growing concern to Senate Democrats, who fear that a sweeping program to temporarily halt deportation will further endanger their chances of maintaining control of the chamber. They are most worried about the impact on key Senate races in red states, including Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana and Alaska.
Obama has not yet received recommendations from his staff, and no decision has been made on how he should proceed, according to sources familiar with the process. There has been discussion both inside and outside the White House on whether Obama should wait until after the election to announce the changes to the deportation policy, the most controversial element of the plan. He could move on a smaller package, including some business fixes, before November.
Earlier this month, senior aides from the White House counsel’s office, office of public engagement and the office of science and technology policy, among others, huddled with more than a dozen business groups and company officials to discuss potential immigration policy changes they could make. Smaller meetings with the White House and Department of Homeland Security aides have continued throughout the month. Administration officials are expected to present Obama with recommendations by the end of August.
Representatives from Oracle, Cisco, Fwd.US, Microsoft, Accenture, Compete America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were among those present at a wide-ranging Aug. 1 session that went through a list of asks for the tech sector that would involve rulemaking. Executive orders were not specifically discussed in that meeting, according to one source familiar with the session.