Obama at American UniversityThis morning at American University in Washington, President Obama recommitted his administration to comprehensive immigration reform. Disappointingly, he stopped short of announcing any specific commitments or a specific timeframe. But he was quite candid in stating the reason that any such commitment would be meaningless:

The fact is, without bipartisan support, as we had just a few years ago, we cannot solve this problem. Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality. The only way to reduce the risk that this effort will again falter because of politics is if members of both parties are willing to take responsibility for solving this problem once and for all.

It is a simple fact that the President and the nation cannot accomplish comprehensive immigration reform without the participation of both parties. The mathematics of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress hasn’t changed, and no amount of imploring the President to act will change it.

However, there is something the President can do right now, without waiting for the Republicans to join him in passing comprehensive immigration reform. As he said:

We should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents by denying them the chance to stay here and earn an education and contribute their talents to build the country where they’ve grown up. The DREAM Act would do this, and that’s why I supported this bill as a state legislator and as a U.S. senator – and why I continue to support it as president.

The DREAM Act is subject to the same politics as any other immigration issue. And while Congress dithers, young people who were brought here illegally by their parents as children and have never known any other home are being arrested and threatened with deportation, if not actually deported, to their country of origin, a place they scarcely remember—quite literally exiled from their own country. The president can stop this. He has the authority to instruct the secretary of homeland security to implement what is called  “deferred action,” under which immigrant children who would be eligible to legalize their status under the DREAM Act would be allowed to remain in the country pending action on that act.

The president can—and should—do this today. A lot of innocent lives would be spared unnecessary agony and disruption.

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