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Immigration Debate Hangs Over Washington Political Issues


Now some of this year's close races could be affected by the debate over immigration. There were reports over the weekend that President Obama is preparing to take executive action to grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants.


The White House says that's just speculation. But for more on what the president might have in mind and what the blowback might be, we are joined as we are most Monday mornings by Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.


WERTHEIMER: So executive action wouldn't that just excite the Republicans who are already calling for President Obama's impeachment?

ROBERTS: Well, that of course might be what the president has in mind. The impeachment talk has been much more among Democrats than among Republicans and it has been very useful in raising money for Democrats. Look, you're talking about an election where each party really needs to try to excite and get out its voters. And as you well know Democrats don't show up in the same numbers in off year elections as Republicans do. And so, we're looking right now - in fact over the weekend NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed basically a tie among people saying which party they want to control the Congress. And so both parties are trying to get out their base. The president says, look Republicans are not pass an immigration bill, we have to do something about immigration, we have a crisis at the border, so I have to act. And if that gins up impeachment talk so much the better from his perspective.

WERTHEIMER: So, what are the - what do the Republicans want, do you think?

ROBERTS: Well, we saw at the end of last week as they were trying to get out of town for August recess, that they couldn't pass an immigration bill in the House of Representatives. They had to pull down a bill that was just offering a very small sum of money to help with what's going on with the unaccompanied children at the border. And they've finally brought it back up on Friday. But that bill just gives a little - some money and calls for deporting the children. And then the Republicans added another vote, which was to rescind the presidents executive action that says that children who came to this country as little children and came before 2009 can stay here at least temporarily, the so-called dreamers. The Republicans knowing that the president would veto both of those bills if they ever got to him still decided to make that case that the dreamers should not have legal status. This is, you know, this is a vote that most Republicans and particularly the republican leadership understand it's going to be very tough for them. But they took it away.

WERTHEIMER: What are the long-term consequences do you think of the Republican strategy?

ROBERTS: Well, I think that in the long term they're likely to be very, very dangerous for them and the Republicans, as I said and as you know, are quite concerned about this. There was a poll over the weekend about these unaccompanied minors that showed that 70 percent, including a majority of Republicans, are saying that they should be treated as refugees not as illegal immigrants who should be sent home. And you know we've seen this in our lifetimes, Linda, where we saw African-Americans sign up with the Republicans from the time of Lincoln on and then switch massively to the Democratic Party through the civil rights years. And we could be seeing the same kind of thing with Hispanic Americans, now with the signals being sent by the House of Representatives. And that might not be a problem for them in 2014, probably won't be, but 2016 on, big problem.

WERTHEIMER: Cokie, thank you.

ROBERTS: Thank you Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Commentator Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.