TIME 2014 midterm elections

Drugs, Minimum Wage and Gambling: Inside 2014’s $1 Billion-Plus Ballot Initiatives

Demand for marijuana edibles is pushing several Colorado manufacturers to expand their facilities or move to larger quarters.
Steve Herin, Master Grower at Incredibles, works on repotting marijuana plants in the grow facility on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Kent Nishimura—Denver Post via Getty Images

Bored with the midterms? There’s a lot of (expensive) drama on the ballot that doesn’t involve candidates

The 2014 elections are shaping up to be the most expensive in history, not for electoral campaigns, but for ballot initiatives. More than $1 billion has already been spent on them, according to the National Institute of Money in State Politics. And all that money could swing some key races.

Studies have shown controversial ballot initiatives can boost turnout as much as 8% in midterm elections, which typically see lower turnout than polling during presidential elections. Since Oregon first kicked off ballot initiatives in the early 1900’s, the practice has grown steadily — that is, until this year. Despite the increase in spending, 2014 actually has the least number of total initiatives — only 155 in 41 states, down from 188 in 2012—since 1988, reflecting state efforts to limit legislating by ballot.

Some of the millions already spent were intended to keep certain measures off the ballot. In Alaska, for example, oil and gas companies spent $170 per voter to block a bid to raise oil and gas taxes. In Colorado, energy companies also spent millions to keep fracking initiatives off the ticket. Also not making the cut this year: gay marriage and a push to break California into six states that, while strange, gained a lot of attention early on.

Perhaps the main issue on ballots nationwide this cycle is marijuana. Two states — Oregon and Alaska — plus the District of Columbia have initiatives to follow Colorado and Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana. But it’s a push to make Florida the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana that could impact an electoral race. Former Democratic Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s bid to get his old gubernatorial seat back could see a boost from the measure, as left-leaning voters tend to support marijuana reform. Crist allies have already spent $4 million on the initiative with opponents, including incumbent Florida Gov. Republican Rick Scott and Sheldon Adelson, spending $2.5 million to defeat it thus far.

Another big issue is minimum wage, with four red states—Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota—considering raising the minimum wage. Since 2002, all 10 ballot initiatives to raise state minimum wages have passed, and polling shows these initiatives look like they have good shots at approval as well. The pushes could help embattled Democratic incumbent Senators Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Begich in Alaska.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, another Democratic incumbent fighting to keep his seat, is hoping that a personhood amendment —which defines life as beginning from the moment of conception — will help him stick around. His opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, also opposes the amendment, but has voiced support for personhood initiatives in the past, creating an opening Udall has been exploiting. North Dakota has a similar initiative on the ballot, and Tennessee has a measure that would allow the state legislature to amend the state constitution to strip out abortion rights.

However, some of the most expensive ballot issues are not national ones. In California, two initiatives — one to increase the limit of non-economic malpractice damages from $250,000 to $1.1 million and another requiring state approval of changes in insurance rates — could see as much as $100 million in combined spending to sway voters. And Oregon and Colorado have controversial initiatives mandating the labeling of certain foods that contain genetically modified organisms. Last year, companies like Pepsi, Coca Cola and Monsanto spent $22 million defeating a similar push in Washington where proponents spent $9 million trying to pass it.

Oregon also has a controversial immigration initiative that would uphold a law allowing four-year driver’s licenses for those who cannot prove legal presence in the U.S. Another big-spending item is a spate of gambling initiatives in seven states expected to draw more than $100 million, including a hard-fought initiative in Massachusetts that would repeal a 2011 law allowing gambling resorts that would halt construction on sites.

A gun rights conundrum could happen in Washington, which looks poised to pass two initiatives that countermand one another. One would require universal background checks for all guns, and another forbids more extensive background checks than those required at the federal level. Officials say such a situation has never happened before, and no one is sure what would happen if both pass. Also on guns, Alabama is also looking to become the third state after Louisiana and Missouri to pass a “fundamental right to bear arms,” making it harder to restrict firearm access.

Alabama is also seeking to become the eighth state to forbid state’s recognition of laws violating its policies, including all foreign law. This measure is a follow up to a bill introduced by state Sen. Gerald Allen last year that specifically references Sharia law.

Missouri and Connecticut are looking to joining 33 other states and the District of Columbia in early voting.

And, finally, Maine is looking to ban bear baiting, trapping or the use of dogs to hunt bears. Long live Smokey.

TIME Immigration

U.S.: Most New Immigrant Families Fail to Report

(WASHINGTON) — For nearly three months this summer, the Obama administration carefully avoided answering questions about what happened to tens of thousands of immigrant families caught illegally crossing the Mexican border and released into the United States with instructions to report back to immigration authorities.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and others said they faced deportation. But it turns out that tens of thousands of those immigrants did not follow the government’s instructions to meet with federal immigration agents within 15 days. Instead, they have vanished into the interior of the U.S.

The Homeland Security Department privately acknowledged that about 70 percent of immigrant families failed to report as ordered. The disclosure came during a confidential meeting at its Washington headquarters with immigration advocates participating in a federal working group on detention and enforcement policies.

The Associated Press obtained an audio recording of Wednesday’s meeting and separately interviewed participants.

On the recording, the government did not specify the total number of families released into the U.S. since October. Since only a few hundred families have already been returned to their home countries and limited U.S. detention facilities can house only about 1,200 family members, the 70 percent figure suggests the government released roughly 41,000 members of immigrant families who subsequently failed to appear at federal immigration offices.

The official, who was not identified by name on the recording, also said final deportation had been ordered for at least 860 people traveling as families caught at the border since May but only 14 people had reported as ordered.

The Homeland Security Department did not dispute the authenticity of the recording.

In an emailed statement Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the no-show figure represented “an approximate snapshot” of cases since May. Christiansen said some people may still report to immigration court hearings, and a “significant” number of deportation cases are still pending before judges.

The AP reported in June that the administration would not say publicly how many immigrant families from Central America caught crossing into the U.S. it had released in recent months or how many of those subsequently reported back to the government after 15 days as directed. The AP noted that senior U.S. officials directly familiar with the issue, including at the Homeland Security Department and White House, had dodged the answer on at least seven occasions over two weeks, alternately saying that they did not know the figure or didn’t have it immediately at hand.

Homeland Security’s public affairs office during the same period did not answer roughly a dozen requests for the figures.

More than 66,000 immigrants traveling as families, mostly mothers and young children, have been apprehended at the border since the start of the budget year in October. Nearly 60,000 of those immigrants are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and cannot be immediately repatriated, so the government has been releasing them into the U.S. and telling them to report within 15 days to the nearest Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices.

Republican lawmakers have been critical of the administration’s decision to release any immigrants caught crossing the border illegally.

“With this administration’s failure to enforce our immigration laws, it is no surprise that 70 percent of the families released take their chances to stay here and don’t show up for their follow-up appointments or court dates,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said.

That previously undisclosed no-show rate led in part to the government’s decision in June to open a temporary detention facility at a federal training center in Artesia, New Mexico.

A second immigration jail in Texas was later converted for families and can house about 530 people. A third such detention center will open in Texas later this year. Before the new facility in Artesia, the government had room for fewer than 100 people at its only family detention center in Pennsylvania.

Immigration advocates have complained that the new detention centers were punishing immigrants who ultimately may win lawful asylum claims to remain in the U.S. In the meeting, they also questioned whether immigration officials had clearly and properly instructed immigrants to meet with federal agents within 15 days.

The ICE official said it was necessary to detain families to ensure they didn’t vanish into the U.S. He encouraged advocacy groups to help find ways to ensure that immigrants reported to federal agents as ordered so the government could begin processing their cases, including any requests to remain in the U.S. legally.

TIME Immigration

Deputy Homeland Security Secretary: Border ‘More Secure’ Than Ever

U.S. Agents Patrol Mexico Texas Border
Women and children sit in a holding cell at a U.S. Border Patrol processing center after being detained by agents near the U.S.-Mexico border on September 8, 2014 near McAllen, Texas. John Moore—Getty Images

Alejandro Mayorkas spoke Tuesday at an event hosted by the liberal think tank NDN

The U.S. border is “more secure than it has ever been before,” Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday while speaking on the federal government’s response to the surge in minors crossing the country’s southern border unaccompanied.

Mayorkas, addressing a crowd at the National Press Club in Washington, said that though the number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has decreased from the 300-per-day that were seen at the peak of the ongoing crisis, he would not declare the problem itself solved.

“It would be premature at best to declare a victory and say the past is behind us because we don’t know,” Mayorkas said. “What we have achieved is tremendous progress.”

More than 66,000 kids have crossed the southern U.S. border without their parents or guardians between October 2013 and the end of August, most starting from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala and making the final leg over the U.S. border in the Rio Grande Valley area. However, the number of youths making the trip has decreased dramatically in the late summer from the peak in May and June — in August, unaccompanied minor border crossings were at their lowest point since February 2013, with just over 3,100 kids apprehended that month.

Mayorkas credited that decline to various steps the U.S. government has taken to address the crisis, including expediting the processing of children apprehended at the border and working with the governments of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to keep kids from coming in the first place.

The issues at the border, however, are likely far from over. There have been allegations of abuse and substandard living conditions at some immigration detention centers, for example. And though the administration set aside $2 million to provide legal representation for immigrant minors, advocates say many of them still lack counsel. Immigrants do not have a legal right to a lawyer, but advocates say legal representation would help ease the strain on the courts which the influx of minors creates. And though the number of children crossing the border dropped in the hot summer months, there is a possibility for an uptick in crossings as temperatures cool down.

TIME politics

Hate Immigrants? Good Luck With Women Voters

Elena, 14, her mother Lucia, and Andrea Mercado, Co-Chair of We Belong Together. Elena and Lucia live in Homestead, FL. Elena's father was deported two years ago, leaving Lucia to raise Elena and her four younger siblings by herself with the meager salary she earns cleaning houses. Les Talusan

Terry O’Neill is the president of NOW. Pramila Jayapal is a Co-Chair of We Belong Together.

Fixing our broken immigration system is a crucial part of the struggle for women’s equality

Why did we both get arrested outside the U.S. Capitol last year demanding Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform? Why did Terry join more than 140 other activists outside the White House last week in an act of civil disobedience to demand that President Obama stop deporting workers, parents and children? Why did over 30 Floridian children whose parents have been deported hold a vigil in front of the White House on Monday afternoon to urge the President to stop separating families?

Because we had to. None of us can march into the Oval Office, pound on the President’s desk and tell Barack Obama to reverse the delay that he announced on Saturday. But we can give the President and members of Congress something to think about when they look out their windows. The question is whether they can muster the political will to do the right thing.

Barack Obama said he would act on his own if the do-nothing Congress continued to block reform—but now, he seems to be listening to cautious political advisors who believe they can siphon away votes from Republican Senate candidates by parroting their hard line on immigration. That’s the wrong way to go.

The 11 million undocumented men, women, and children cannot vote in the U.S. But members of their families and communities, who recognize the incredible contributions immigrants have made to our nation, can and will vote. In the year since the Senate immigration reform bill was passed, while the House refused to act, 1.5 million immigrants became newly eligible voters. For immigrant and Latino voters, relief from deportations and family separation will be a key issue in the upcoming elections.

And women vote. We know that fixing our broken immigration system is a crucial part of the struggle for women’s equality. Women and children make up 75% of immigrants in the US and they bear the brunt of harsh enforcement measures, backlogs in the family immigration process, and a biased visa system that doesn’t credit women’s contributions in informal labor sectors. Creating an immigration process that is fair to women and children is a priority for women voters, with 70% supporting immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

The power of this voting bloc should be enough to make this a pressing issue for every candidate, but it seems almost nothing will move Republicans in the House to act. With Congress refusing to listen to their hearts, minds, and pollsters, President Obama must step in to make common-sense changes that provide relief from deportations and the separation of families.

Republicans allege that the President is overstepping his authority and disrespecting our system of checks and balances. But this Congress has pledged not to work with the President on the issue; it is the obstinacy and inaction of Congress that has tipped the scale, and the President must balance it out for the sake of millions.

There are several things that President Obama can do today to provide relief to millions of families and to live up to his campaign promises: use his legal authority to allow immigrants to remain and work legally in the U.S without burdensome requirements that could exclude women; alleviate the 4 million backlogged cases in the family visa system that jam the path to citizenship; repeal enforcement programs like “Secure Communities” and 287 (g) initiatives that are rife with racial profiling and create barriers for survivors of sexual and domestic violence to life-saving services and protection; allow spouses of visa holders to work to give women the ability to support themselves and contribute to our economy; immediately end the detention of families with children; and prioritize family unity in any Department of Homeland Security enforcement mandates.

By taking bold action now President Obama will live up to his promise and set us on the path to an immigration process that values families, is fair to women, and recognizes the invaluable contributions of immigrants to our nation. House Republicans have underestimated the power of immigrant communities, and the power of women who espouse true family values. People who care about their immigrant neighbors, relatives, friends, and co-workers will vote their values come November. Politicians who gambled on xenophobia and misanthropy will have to find a new line of work.

Terry O’Neill is the president of NOW. Pramila Jayapal is a Co-Chair of We Belong Together.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Immigration

Report: U.S. Sharply Cutting Deportations

Barack Obama Address to the Nation
President Barack Obama speaks to the nation on his plan to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS Saul Loeb—CNP/AdMedia/Corbis

(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama, who has postponed until after Election Day his plans that could shield millions of immigrants from deportation, is already on pace this year to deport the fewest number of immigrants since at least 2007.

According to an analysis of Homeland Security Department figures by The Associated Press, the federal agency responsible for deportations sent home 258,608 immigrants between the start of the budget year last October and July 28 this summer. During the same period a year earlier, it removed 320,167 people — a decrease of nearly 20 percent.

Over the same period ending in July 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 344,624 people, some 25 percent more than this year, according to the federal figures obtained by the AP.

The figures, contained in weekly internal reports marked “Official Use Only,” reflect the marked decline in deportations even as Obama has delayed announcing what changes he will make to U.S. immigration policies. Immigration advocates widely expect Obama to reduce the number of immigrants who are deported, a particularly sensitive issue in many states. Since Obama took office, his administration has removed more than 2.1 million immigrants.

There are two principal reasons why fewer immigrants already are being deported:

—The Obama administration decided as early as summer 2011 to focus its deportation efforts on criminal immigrants or those who posed a threat to national security or public safety. Many others who crossed into the United States illegally and could be subject to deportation are stuck in a federal immigration court system. Last month the backlog in that system exceeded 400,000 cases for the first time, according to court data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. For each case, it now takes several years for a judge to issue a final order to leave the U.S.

—As Border Patrol agents detain more people from countries in Central America, not Mexico, the volume and circumstances of the cases take more time for overwhelmed immigration officials and courts to process because, among other reasons, the U.S. must fly such immigrants home rather than letting them walk back across the border into Mexico. A surge in the number of immigrant families, mostly women and young children, has swamped temporary holding facilities, leading the Homeland Security Department to release many people into the U.S. interior with instructions to report back to authorities later.

Asked for comment, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the agency has not released removal numbers for this budget year and officials are “still assessing a number of factors that inform ICE’s ability to remove individuals.”

“ICE remains focused on smart and effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of convicted criminals and recent border entrants,” Christensen said in a statement.

Also, under U.S. law, immigrant children from Central America caught crossing the border alone can’t be subjected to speedy removal proceedings without appearing before a judge. The government interviews Mexican and Canadian children to make sure they aren’t trafficking victims; then they can be sent home quickly.

The administration instructed immigration officials starting in summer 2011 to prioritize deportation cases involving criminal immigrants. Deportations had been increasing since late 2008, but since that summer the overall number has dropped markedly.

It remains unclear exactly what actions Obama will announce after the elections. He said earlier this month the U.S. would be better off if immigrants — who in some cases he said have been in the U.S. for longer than 10 years and have American children — “have a path to get legal by paying taxes and getting aboveboard, paying a fine, learning English if they have to.”

But there are limits under U.S. law to actions that Obama could take without approval from Congress. He can’t generally give large groups of immigrants blanket permission to remain permanently in the United States, and he can’t grant them American citizenship. He almost certainly could delay indefinitely efforts to deport immigrants already in the U.S. illegally, and he could give them official work permits that would allow them to legally find jobs, obtain driver’s licenses and file tax returns.

The president said this month that a partisan fight in July over how to address a surge in the number of immigrant children caught crossing the border had created the impression that there was a crisis — and a volatile climate for taking the measures he had promised.

Amid the crush of immigrant families and children caught traveling alone across the border, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has promised that most will be sent home.

“Those who cross our border illegally must know there is no safe passage and no free pass,” Johnson said in July. “Within the confines of our laws, our values and our resources, they will be sent back to their home countries.”

As of early September, only 319 of more than 59,000 immigrants who were caught traveling with their families have been returned to Central America.

TIME White House

Obama: ‘Politics Did Shift’ On Immigration Reform

US President Barack Obama in Estonia to discuss security in Baltics
President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news confernce with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (unseen) following their meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, Sept. 3, 2014. Valda Kalninia—EPA

The President explains why he decided to delay executive actions on immigration that he promised by the end of the summer

President Barack Obama defended his decision to delay promised executive action on immigration reform Saturday, saying he wasn’t playing politics when he decided to wait until after November’s midterm elections to act.

In an interview with NBC News Meet The Press moderator Chuck Todd, Obama said he did not decide to delay acting in order because vulnerable Senate Democrats have been pressing the White House to wait to act until after the midterms. “Well, that’s not the reason,” Obama told Todd. Instead, Obama blamed the early summer crisis over the surge of unaccompanied minors across the southern border for the delay.

“The truth of the matter is, that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,” Obama said. “I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this, why it’s the right thing for the American people, why it’s the right thing for the American economy.”

Earlier Saturday, a White House official said Republicans “fought hard to exploit the humanitarian situation” on the border. Polls conducted since the crisis began have found a significant drop in support for immigration reform, as voter priorities have shifted in favor of border security. Obama’s unilateral actions would have focused more on deferring removal proceedings for millions who immigrated to the United States illegally.

Obama said he was keenly aware of the drop in support for the actions he has been contemplating, saying he wants to make sure that whatever he does is “sustainable” with public backing.

“This problem with unaccompanied children that we saw a couple weeks ago, where you had, from Central America, a surge of kids who were showing up at the border, got a lot of attention,” Obama said. “And a lot of Americans started thinking, ‘We’ve got this immigration crisis on our hands.’ . . . And in terms of these unaccompanied children, we’ve actually systematically worked through the problem, so that the surge in June dropped in July, dropped further in August. It’s now below what it was last year. But that’s not the impression on people’s minds. And what I want to do is, when I take executive action, I want to make sure that it’s sustainable.”

Obama’s full interview with Todd airs Sunday morning on Meet The Press.

TIME Immigration

Obama Weighs Risks and Rewards on Immigration Action

President Obama Delivers Remarks At The Department of Housing and Urban Development
U.S President Barack Obama Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The President is weighing whether to wait until after the midterms to move on immigration, after promising action at the end of the summer

President Barack Obama is weighing whether to postpone a self-imposed deadline to make unilateral changes to U.S. immigration laws as the midterm elections draw near.

The President is still expected to take executive action this year to provide temporary deportation protection and work authorization to potentially several million undocumented immigrants.

But with control of the Senate hanging in the balance, the uncertain ramifications of revamping U.S. immigration law have spurred the White House to reconsider the timing of its announcement. Here’s what we know—and what we don’t—about a decision that could reshape the political landscape in 2014 and beyond.

When might Obama’s decision come?

It was originally supposed to be by the end of summer. On June 30, almost exactly a year after the Senate passed a bipartisan overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, Obama announced he had instructed cabinet officials to prepare reports advising him what executive orders he could legally issue to mend a broken system on his own. “If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said. “I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay.”

But Obama has backtracked from his original timeline in recent days. It’s now an open question whether the move will come before the calendar officially turns to fall on Sept. 22. “There is the chance that it could be before the end of the summer. There is the chance that it could be after the summer,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday. Obama’s advisers have yet to present any policy recommendations, which will precede a presidential decision.

Immigration activists and Democratic aides who have pressed Obama to use his executive authority say they now fear the White House may wait until after the midterms to act. “It seems like we’re losing the argument,” says one immigration activist who met with Obama this summer. A Democratic Congressional aide told TIME the White House seemed to be “getting cold feet” about its original timeline.

Why the delay?

Blame election season. Democratic campaign strategists believe that a sweeping move to grant deportation relief before November would imperil the reelection bids of several vulnerable Senate incumbents, and have pressed the White House to hold off until at least mid-November. The White House doesn’t want an executive order on immigration to tip tight races to its opponents. And the unresolved child-migration crisis at the southwestern border has further muddied a decision already fraught with political risks. But no matter the timing, Obama still intends to unilaterally reshape U.S. immigration law in the absence of Congressional action. “The president is determined to act,” Earnest said Tuesday. “That has not changed and it will not change.”

What policy options is Obama considering?

Obama’s exact plans are unknown. But he is weighing using his executive authority to grant work permits and deportation relief for several million undocumented immigrants, perhaps through expanding a 2012 program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Obama may also decide to reform immigration enforcement priorities, as well as to offer special protections for specific groups of workers, as business groups have sought.

What might be the political benefits of waiting until after the midterms?

Democratic campaign strategists and some White House officials believe that taking executive action on immigration would jeopardize Democratic Senators who are fighting to stave off challengers in conservative states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina. Control of the Senate may hinge on the outcome of those races. “It would have the unhelpful consequence of putting the issue in the news in a way that doesn’t help Democrats, while also not accomplishing anything,” says a national Democratic strategist.

Of the most competitive Senate races this year, Colorado—which is home to a burgeoning Hispanic population—is perhaps the only one in which aggressive executive orders would be highly likely to benefit the Democratic candidate, Sen. Mark Udall. Democratic campaign strategists argue the move would not only endanger the party’s grip on the upper chamber, but also eliminate the diminishing chance that Congress passes a comprehensive overhaul in the near future. If a move “swings the election,” says the Democratic strategist, “that will set back comprehensive immigration reform for years.”

What might be the political benefits of acting now?

Immigration-reform advocates say that a bold move to protect millions from deportation would cement Democrats’ bond with increasingly frustrated Hispanics, giving the party an edge with the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group for a generation or more. And while it would almost surely help Democrats in 2016—as the creation of DACA did in 2012—it’s not necessarily clear that it would hurt in November.

In addition to thrilling Latinos, expansive executive action would incense conservative Republicans, and potentially incite the GOP’s anti-immigration wing to make damaging remarks that Democrats could wield as campaign cudgels. “It’s a winner coming and going,” says Frank Sharry, head of the pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice. “No matter what he does, the right wing is going to go bonkers,” Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, told reporters last week. “If he goes mild, he’ll energize the right, but he won’t energize the center and the left.”

What about splitting the difference?

A third option under consideration, according to White House aides, is that Obama announces some modest executive orders before the election, but holds off until mid-November to announce more sweeping components. This seems unlikely, however, because it minimizes the political rewards but not the risks. Republicans would still assail the President. The issue would still take center stage in the midterms. But Hispanics might view the move as a half-measure from a President who came into office vowing to make immigration reform a priority, but has mostly disappointed them since.

“You cannot, on the one hand, receive a community warmly and embrace them, and say that you are for them and that you’re ready to protect them,” says Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, “and on the other one turn your back on them when you think it’s not in your political self-interest.” Gutierrez has long urged his Democratic counterparts to be patient and let the process of coaxing Republicans to the table play out. In an interview Tuesday, he said it was time for Democrats to stop bowing to political considerations, and for the White House to live up to its commitment to Hispanics.

“I have absolutely no doubt that [Obama] wants to make a broad, bold and generous action,” Gutierrez says. “I hope that Democrats get the hell out of the way and let the President be the President we elected.”

—Additional reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke J. Miller

TIME Immigration

Obama Plugs ‘Immigration Rights’ in Labor Day Address

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks at Laborfest 2014 at Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee on Labor Day, Sept. 1, 2014 Charles Dharapak—AP

Off-the-cuff statement indicates Obama is laying the groundwork for unilateral executive action that could defer prosecutions for millions of illegal immigrants

Delivering a fiery address marking Labor Day in Milwaukee on Monday, President Barack Obama for the first time indicated his support for the rights of immigrants in the U.S.

“Hope is what gives us courage; hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach,” Obama said, harkening back to his 2008 presidential campaign. “Hope is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights and workers’ rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigration rights.”

It was the first time “immigration rights” had been included in the president’s familiar riff on civil principles, and the first time Obama has used the phrase outside the context of referring to “immigration-rights activists.”

The statement, seemingly delivered off the cuff, is the latest indication of Obama laying the groundwork for unilateral executive action that could defer prosecutions for millions who arrived in the United States illegally.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is expected to give Obama recommendations for action by the end of the summer. Activists believe the President is preparing to extend the deferred action program to millions, but the timing of the actions is uncertain given November’s midterm elections.

Speaking to a boisterous union crowd Monday, Obama criticized congressional Republicans for blocking efforts to raise the minimum wage. “Not only is it not right,” Obama said, “it ain’t right.” “I’m not asking for the moon, I just want a good deal for American workers,” Obama said.

Obama also plugged union membership, which has steadily declined in recent decades, saying that if he was “busting my butt in the service industry” or was a police officer he would join a union to secure higher wages and job protections.

TIME Immigration

Labor Leader Urges Obama to Go Big on Immigration

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO Michael Bonfigli—The Christian Science Monitor.

Seeking a change in deportations policy and an energized liberal base for the midterm elections

A top labor leader predicted Thursday that President Barack Obama will use his executive authority to make changes in immigration policy without congressional cooperation, but also castigated him for the high rate of deportations under his watch.

“He’s going to do something; I just hope it’s bold enough to be worthwhile,” Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “No matter what he does the right wing is going to go bonkers and say he doesn’t care about anything—[that] he isn’t enforcing the law.”

Obama has been under pressure from liberals to work around congressional opposition to comprehensive immigration reform by issuing executive orders. Trumka said that could be politically savvy with the midterm elections approaching—so long as Obama goes far enough to energize the liberal base.

“If he goes mild he’ll energize the right but he won’t energize the center and the left,” Trumka said.

The AFL-CIO, an umbrella union group, wants the President to defer deportations, grant work authorization to “low-priority” undocumented immigrants, and restore the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s authority over local law enforcement, among other demands.

Trumka said Thursday that the current “deportation policy doesn’t make sense,” and that Obama fell into a “classic trap” set by Republicans, raising the number of the deportations without guaranteeing a comprehensive immigration bill in return.

“What it did do is undermine the support [Obama] had in the Latino community because those communities really believe that they are under attack right now,” Trumka said. “You’re seeing families split up.”

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