Josh Lederman? and Erica Werner

WASHINGTON: When President Barack Obama announced he was looking for ways to ease deportations without going through Congress, Republicans called it a case study in overreach, arguing that it’s Obama — not Republicans — who is undermining prospects for an immigration overhaul by proving he can’t be trusted to enforce the law.

Now as a narrow summertime window opens in which Congress could act on immigration, Obama is working to turn the tables on Republicans. He’s holding off any executive actions on deportation in hopes that Republicans will bear all the blame if that window closes with the nation’s immigration system no closer to being fixed.

It’s an election-year gambit with the potential to backfire: By asking for patience yet again from frustrated immigration activists, Obama is driving up expectations about actions he’ll take if the fight in Congress ultimately fails.

“It’s an audacious strategy,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said. “But it has some downsides to it too.”

Two months after Obama commissioned a review of how deportations in America can be more humane, the White House announced Tuesday that Obama had asked his homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, to hold off on releasing the results of that review until August. That’s when lawmakers leave Washington to focus on campaigning ahead of the November elections.

White House officials said the delay is intended to give the GOP as much breathing room as possible to maneuver now that most GOP primaries are over, freeing incumbent Republicans from concerns about challenges from conservatives who oppose an immigration overhaul.

Yet Obama’s allies also hope that by holding off on controversial steps to ease deportations, Democrats can keep the focus squarely on the failure of Republicans and House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, to bring immigration to a vote.

“Giving the Republicans space takes away their final excuse,” said Jim Wallis, president of Christian social justice group Sojourners. “It’s all now focused on John Boehner.”

But Republicans dismissed the notion that Obama’s move makes it easier for Republicans to act on immigration, noting that Obama has only delayed — not removed — the threat that he’ll go over lawmakers’ heads if they don’t act by August.

“It’s completely inappropriate for the president to threaten Congress that he will unconstitutionally act on his own if Congress doesn’t produce a bill to his political liking within his own made-up timeframe,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said.

And if lawmakers stall, Obama will be short on excuses not to take the aggressive executive action on deportations that activists long have demanded.

“Delaying reform may keep the spotlight on Republicans for now, but it ramps up the pressure on [Obama] to not only take executive action, but to make it big and bold,” said Frank Sharry of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice.