Delay on Immigration Infuriates Latinos, Activists

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) -
A U.S. Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) agent and Air and Marine agent look for signs along trail while on patrol near the Texas-Mexico border, Friday, near McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A U.S. Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) agent and Air and Marine agent look for signs along trail while on patrol near the Texas-Mexico border, Friday, near McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

There was nothing mixed or muddled about the reaction.

Among undocumented immigrants and activists working on their behalf, President Barack Obama’s decision to wait until after November’s elections to make promised changes to immigration policy provoked raw anger.

One group called the president’s decision “an affront” to migrant families. Another said Obama had “prioritized politics over reform.”

An immigration lawyer said her clients had been “sold out,” and one longtime activist burst into tears when asked how the decision might affect his friends and family.

“The announcement is pretty shameful and once again demonstrates that, for Obama, politics comes before Latino lives,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, a Los Angeles-based Latino advocacy group. He said Obama had “raised the hopes of millions of Latinos across the country by promoting anticipation for an executive action, only to smash them for perceived political gain.”

The response from activists across the country stood in contrast to other Democratic lawmakers and party operatives in Washington who said they understood that Obama was holding off for fear of upending Democratic chances of maintaining control of the Senate.

Whether Latinos and immigration advocacy group are in a position to punish Democrats at the polls this November remains an open question.

In 2012, national exit polls showed that 10 percent of the electorate was Hispanic, up from 8 percent in 2004. In the presidential election, 71 percent of Latinos voted for Obama, compared with 27 percent who chose Republican Mitt Romney.

But the potential Latino influence is less clear this year because, with the exception of Colorado, most of the competitive congressional races are in states or districts with smaller Latino populations.

President Barack Obama said Saturday that the surge of immigrant children entering the U.S. illegally changed the politics surrounding the issue of immigration and led him to put off a pledge to use executive action that could shield millions of people from deportation.

Republican leaders in Congress criticized the president, calling his decision a cynical ploy.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Obama’s move amounted to “Washington politics at its worst.”

Boehner (R-Ohio), in a statement on Saturday, said the decision to delay, rather than abandon, the idea of executive action on immigration “smacks of raw politics.”

“Any unilateral action will only further strain the bonds of trust between the White House and the people they are supposed to serve,” Boehner said.

(With reporting by AP)