Washington (CNN) – Members of both parties on Thursday questioned the Obama administration's decision to delay a review of its immigration policies in the hope of helping to propel a reform package.
"We can only expect DHS's efforts to evade its immigration law enforcement responsibilities to escalate. President Obama asked Secretary Johnson to perform an inventory of the department's enforcement practices to see how it can conduct them more humanely. These are simply code words for further ratcheting down enforcement of our immigration laws," Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, said at the opening of a Judiciary Committee hearing featuring Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
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Speaking of the President's decision to ask for the delay, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, said at the same hearing "I think, in my opinion, it's a pretty grand gesture on his part to say 'no' to me…to say 'no' to millions of people who support him, voted for him, cherish him, love him and have protected him – for him to say 'no' to us, because he wants to say 'yes' to you, because he wants to reach an agreement with you."
Gutierrez is one of the leading proponents in Congress pushing for immigration reform.
While some experts believe the chances of passing immigration reform this year are small, Johnson told the committee he hopes the delay will help pave the way for the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to consider a bill.
"It is something that I very much support and believe in for a number of reasons, including added border security…enhanced criminal penalties for those who would hire undocumented, as well as the earned path to citizenship, and both the President and I urge the House of Representatives to act."
The Department of Homeland Security had been weighing possibly relaxing some of its deportation guidelines as part of an overall review of its immigration policies and was expected to unveil some recommendations in the coming weeks. The President asked Johnson not to release the results now but to continue working on it through the summer in hopes of giving the House of Representatives a possible window of time to act on a bill.
Some insiders worried if the administration changed its deportation guidelines unilaterally now, Republicans would then retaliate by blocking a reform bill. Goodlatte on Thursday raised a concern brought up by many Republicans - they don't trust President Obama and believe the administration has acted beyond its legal authority in how it has enforced various laws.
For Latino activists, they believe the White House should not delay any changes in hope of currying favor with Republicans.
"This administration has made a calculus," Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation, said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
"On the part of the community there is a great deal of frustration."
He and other leaders would like to see a change in deportation policy, saying families are being broken up and that there should be a humane approach.
Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, told reporters that "by not acting" families will continue to be torn apart and she wants to "ensure the families get the relief."
Some Democratic congressional leaders used the White House's action to try to put more pressure on the House Republican leadership.
"Once again the President has shown a willingness to work with Republicans to get immigration reform done. The House Republicans are now out of excuses not to pass immigration reform, and the ball is in their court. Supporters of reform have bent over backwards to give the House space to act, and now it's time for them to do so," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said in a statement.
Reacting to the White House decision on its immigration review, Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said: "Enforcing the law as written isn't a 'concession' – it is the President's solemn responsibility. Now isn't the time to be playing politics with immigration enforcement or our national security."
Boehner has said the House will not take up a comprehensive immigration reform bill similar to the one passed by the Senate last year, which included a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally. He said he wants to see reform done in more of a piecemeal fashion.
While Boehner said last week "there is nobody more interested in fixing this problem than I am," many conservatives in his party are fighting any attempts at taking up the issue especially because the party is divided on how to deal with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
An idea of just how contentious the issue is for House Republicans can be seen in the blocking last week of a modest bill by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-California, which would have given green cards to those who came to the U.S. illegally as children and who later served in the military.
While some of the leaders of a coalition of six Latino groups on Wednesday clearly were not pleased with the White House delaying any changes regarding deportations, the Latino activists said they were more upset with Republican leaders for not pushing harder for immigration reform. The groups released report cards giving a failing grade to a majority of House Republicans for their actions on immigration reform and went to Capitol Hill to deliver them in person.
"The House of Representatives is failing (the Latino community)," said the Hispanic Federation's Jose Calderon. "The time to act is now."
Warning that members of the Latino community will vote against those who don't embrace change, Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, said "our community does not forget."
CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh, Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta and Courtney Battle contributed to this story.