The past weeks have been extremely disappointing and disheartening for immigrant communities and immigration reform advocates. On September 6th, the White House announced a delay in President Obama’s plans for administrative action to address the broken immigration system, which he had previously promised would take place by the end of the summer. The President justified the delay, saying “… I'm going to act because it's the right thing for the country…But it's going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what we've done on unaccompanied children and why it's necessary.” Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, also said that after the elections it will be easier to protect the actions he takes. The situation of unaccompanied minors at the border had garnered the attention of the American public and polling data showed that Americans were more concerned with immigration than they have been in the past.
Although President Obama, denied the role of politics in his decision to delay administrative relief, many argue that the real reason for the President’s delay is due to the upcoming elections. Control of the Senate is up for grabs this November and several Democratic Senators in tight races had asked for the delay.
Pro-immigration reform groups and some Democrats have criticized the President’s delay. Last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) met with senior White House officials to express their frustration with the delay. White House officials reassured the CHC that the President will act by the end of the year. The CHC approved a resolution urging the President to act by the holidays.
Meanwhile, anti-immigrant Senators Sessions and Cruz took advantage of their brief presence in DC (both the House and Senate are now out of session until after the November election) to push a measure opposing executive action by the President to address the broken immigration system. Specifically, the measure would have disallowed any new DACA applicants and prohibited the President from creating any new affirmative relief programs for undocumented immigrants. A procedural vote on the anti-immigrant measure failed on a 50-50 vote to garner the 51 votes needed to move forward. The Senators had tried to offer the proposal as an amendment to the continuing resolution to keep the government funded through December 11th and provide funding for the situation in Syria. Five Democrats joined Republican Senators in supporting the measure: Senators Kay Hagan (NC), Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Pryor (AK), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Joe Manchin III (WV). Manchin was the only Democrat who voted for the measure who is not up for reelection this November.
Finally, check out the Economic Policy Institute’s blog “Here’s Why We Need to Legalize the Undocumented Immigrant Workforce.” The blog discusses an article in the Tennessean about exploited undocumented farmworkers on a tobacco farm in Tennessee who were threatened with immigration enforcement when they told their boss their plans to leave for another job. The article illustrates that the only way to end the exploitation of farmworkers is for the undocumented population to be granted protection from deportation and work authorization. Farmworker Justice will continue to press the President to provide a broad, bold affirmative relief program for undocumented immigrants that includes farmworkers and their families.