Obama Draws Criticism for Delaying Immigration Reform

US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama |

Barack Obama's announcement that he will delay executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections in November has drawn severe criticism from Latino and immigration groups, who say the president has put politics before people.

"President Obama let the politics of fear get in the way of standing up for justice and fairness," says Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

"It is ironic that at a moment when immigrants, Latino and Asian-American communities have shown their strength — at the ballot box, at the workplace and in their communities — the president has chosen to stand instead with politicians and others who prefer a short-term gain," Hincapié says in a statement.

In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Obama blamed the delay on the surge of unaccompanied children at the Mexican border.

"The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem," the president said. "I want to spend some time, even as we're getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we're doing this, why it's the right thing for the American people, why it's the right thing for the American economy."

In June, Obama had promised that his office would protect illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation by issuing directives to overhaul the immigration system after summer's end. The Latino vote could have an impact in only a few Senate seats in the midterm elections.

"The president's latest broken promise is another slap in the face of the Latino and immigrant community," says Cristina Jimenez, managing director for United We Dream. "Where we have demanded leadership and courage from both Democrats and the president, we've received nothing but broken promises and a lack of a political backbone."

A nine-week wait could result in deportation of over 70,000 people, Jimenez adds, calling Obama "the deporter-in-chief."

Obama explained the move, saying the delay is not due to mere political considerations. "What I'm saying is that 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," he says during the interview.

A White House official added that the country is in the midst of the political season, and "because of the Republicans' extreme politicization of this issue, the president believes it would be harmful to the policy itself and to the long-term prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to announce administrative action before the elections."

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