WASHINGTON, DC --- Immigration activists turned their ire on Republicans over immigration, joining with Democrats who have been building public support for President Barack Obama’s plan to take executive action on immigration, possibly as soon as this week.
Young immigrants here illegally, known as Dreamers, aimed their protests at Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. The protests are a shift from demonstrations that had been waged against Obama, after the president delayed taking immigration action until after the elections.
They are part of a visible effort by Democrats and their allies to drum up public support for the president and the action he’s taking and to beat back the Republican complaints that Obama would be “poisoning the well” by taking action.
The protests also come amid growing activity around the potential action from Obama. Although timing remains uncertain, a source told NBC News the president has met with immigration advisers on the issue Tuesday and had a good meeting with them.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in an interview with Univision he expects a decision soon and that Obama “knows I have his back.”
On the House floor, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., drew parallels between Obama's action and the executive action used by Harry Truman to desegregate the military after World War II.
But a USA Today poll, reported Tuesday, found that 46 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed thought Obama should wait for the GOP-controlled Congress to act on immigration reform, while 42 percent said he should act now. Twelve percent didn’t know or didn’t answer the poll done Nov. 13-16 that has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest declined to discuss the timeline of the president’s action or confirm whether the president had received recommendations at the daily press briefing, saying only that Obama is nearing a decision and that "this is something that is on his agenda this week."
Earnest called the “rhetoric” from the GOP on executive action “unprecedented.”
Also Tuesday, the White House was forced to respond to questions about previous statements he'd made about whether he had the authority to take executive action on immigration. Earnest said Obama was usually talking about whether he could stop all deportations. He said the president had ordered a review to find out what authority he did have and ensure the administration was leaving no stone unturned in examining what sort of authority the president could wield.
Meanwhile Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends Project reported the population of immigrants in the U.S. illegally rose in seven states and fell in 14 from 2009-12. But nationally the population of 11.2 million immigrants here illegally was unchanged since 2009.
Pew attributed the drops in 13 states to drops in illegal immigration from Mexico. An increase in six of seven states was due to growth in the number of non-Mexican immigrants, except in Nevada that had a small increase in Mexican immigrants.