President Barack Obama’s decision to postpone issuing an executive order on immigration reform has been seen as a betrayal by many immigrants. The two rationales offered on behalf of the White House, that issuing an order would cost Democrats the Senate and that the arrival of child refugees from Central America has made immediate action impossible, are not acceptable.
First, children have been arriving from Central America for years. The decision by some in Congress to highlight this situation for political reasons does not excuse the president’s inaction. In fact, the influx of children was at its height in June, the very month that Obama went to the Rose Garden to say that he would announce his executive order before the end of summer.
Second, the president can never really delay something until after the election, because there is always an election after that. And, as we have seen, delays often mean that more extraneous events can intrude on policy decisions. Two months from now new events may arise that would delay it permanently.
Third, many immigrants wonder what leverage they will have after the elections when immigrant votes may not count for as much.
Action is needed now. If an executive order covering a large number of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. was a good idea in June, then the arrival of the children has done nothing to change that. The executive order would not have affected them anyway.
Finally, it is reports that the impetus for this delay came from the Senate leadership that are particularly disturbing to many immigrants. Senate leader Harry Reid only survived a strong challenge in his last election because of a remarkably high Latino turnout for him. Many Latinos have told me that they are angry that he seems to want to appease the anti-immigrant hate groups that have always opposed him, at the expense of the immigrants who reelected him.