Barack Obama

President Obama’s executive action to shield up to 4 million more immigrants from deportation could build up goodwill with Latinos ahead of an expected immigration battle with the GOP. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)

By David Nakamura
December 15, 2014 at 3:58 PM

President Obama is bracing for a political and legal battle with Republicans next year over his executive actions on immigration, but as he seeks to rally support against the anticipated assault, a lingering frustration among some Latinos could mean renewed pressure on him to do even more to protect illegal immigrants.

After six years in which his administration took a tough line on deportations, Obama’s decision to shield up to 4 million more undocumented immigrants from being removed from the country was in part aimed at repairing damage with a key constituency whose support for the president has plummeted.

Their backing will be critical for Obama in the face of GOP efforts in the coming months to block his deferred-action program by denying federal funding for it or to overturn the measure through legislation. Beyond immigration, the president also has been counting on Latinos to support his health-care law.

In both cases, the administration’s strategy is to enroll as many people as possible to make it politically difficult for Republicans to achieve their goals — and in the case of immigration, to put pressure on Congress to find a longer-lasting legislative solution in Obama’s final two years.

But as he attempts to shift the burden back to the GOP, Obama continues to face tough questions from Hispanic activists about why he had not done more and done it sooner. Of particular concern to the advocates are those who were left out of the new deportation protections.

Obama’s response to these competing forces could complicate his record on what he had hoped would be a legacy issue for his presidency. Recently in Nashville, where the president was touting the benefits of immigration to local communities, he was confronted by influential Spanish-language television host Jorge Ramos of Univision.

“You destroyed many families,” Ramos said, noting that Obama’s administration has deported more than 2 million people. “They called you ‘deporter in chief.’ . . . You could have stopped the deportations.”

“No, no, no. That is not true,” Obama protested, criticizing Ramos for wanting “simple, quick answers” to the complicated and deep-rooted problem of illegal immigration.

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