11/06/2014 09:35 am ET Updated Jan 06, 2015

Elections Happened: What's Next for Immigration?


Tuesday night was disappointing for Democrats, all the more so since Obama had gone back on his promise to reform as much of the immigration system as he could by the end of the summer: the leaves are just starting to turn red for Fall, yet we still have the same deportation machine in motion.

While Obama has pledged to work with leaders now in the majority like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), immigration may very well be a sticking point early on: McConnell said an executive order would be a "mistake."

Although the dynamic of Washington will change with this election, it won't change much. For starters, while the GOP had some real gains and took the Senate, they didn't get the vast sweep they did in 2010, and are nowhere near a supermajority. That being said, they will be able to gain leverage over Obama with control of committees and additional amendments being tacked onto bills the GOP may use to try to energize it's base or force the government into another shutdown.

"I am eager to see what they have to offer, but what I'm not going to do is just wait," said Obama at a press conference Wednesday. "The Senate, on a bipartisan basis, passed a good bill. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it was a sound, smart piece of legislation that really would have greatly improved not just our immigration system, but our economy," said the president of the derailed Gang of 8 bill that failed to be picked up in the House.

Obama continued to say that, after this failure, he felt "obliged to do everything I can lawfully, with my executive authority, to make sure that we don't keep on making the system worse, but that whatever executive actions I take will be supplanted and replaced by Congress."

This is the situation that we're looking at now, which is one of the basics of 'checks and balances:' the president is being pushed to act by deportation numbers and the sheer brokenness of our system, but any action he takes could be superseded by legislation if Congress acts, just like any executive order, can be superseded by legislation specifically addressing the subject matter.

There is certainly the argument that this could spur Congress into action, but it would likely be a reason Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA) would cite for shutting down the government or derailing every piece of legislation possible. With the Senate in GOP control, however, they can't simply claim to be in the minority party and obstruct everything: they will publicly bear a greater burden for the failures of our government.

Obama now has around two months to come out with some sort of relief as the deportation counter keeps ticking away. He is still encouraging the GOP to come out with something, but has doubled down on his promise to reform as much of the immigration system as he legally can if they don't. Presidential authority to do so is broad, but he can expect a lot of resistance from Republicans to anything he does: the "latte salute" has shown that there is no transgression minor enough not to drive conservative media crazy and become a trending hash tag.

Right now, it's very hard to try to figure out what will be coming: it's hard to see the president backing off his second promise on the same issue, yet it's undeniable that GOP leverage has increased and doubtful that Speaker Boehner (R-OH) would allow anything as important as immigration to come up during the lame duck session after already putting it off for years. Immigrant rights groups have been increasingly willing to criticize the "Deporter In Chief," and are willing to push for Republicans if they can actually get the job done. Anything done now, whether it's a bold reform or a weak, and whether or not the GOP response from people like Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) is a hyperbolic appeal to their Tea Party base that offends immigrants and Latinos, will become the initial post-election inertia that will set the stage for the new Congress and carry politics through to 2016.

Expect drama.