Obama’s irresponsible immigration game

The president should not have delayed executive action on immigration reform.

Ronald Dixon

In a move that has upset many Latino voters, President Barack Obama recently recanted his promise to act on immigration reform by the end of the summer. Instead, he will use his executive authority to handle our current immigration crisis until after the 2014 midterm elections.

At first glance, Obama’s rationale seems reasonable. By delaying action until the end of the election season, he hopes to reduce the partisanship of the immigration issue, thus increasing the chances of bipartisan cooperation on a broader immigration reform package that executive actions alone cannot fulfill.

Unfortunately, while Obama’s recent decision may appear logical, it may also harm congressional Democrats and hinder the president’s agenda.

For starters, Democrats across the country already have trouble attracting voters to midterm elections. Indeed, Democratic voters generally tend to stay home when a presidential candidate is not on the ballot, whereas Republicans enjoy stronger voter turnout regardless of whether it is a midterm or a presidential election year.

It is also true that Latinos represent a significant portion of Democratic voters. In fact, the Pew Research Center found that during the 2012 presidential election cycle, 71 percent of Latinos voted for Obama, whereas only 27 percent selected his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Latinos also composed 10 percent of all voters, a portion that has increased over the past few presidential elections.

It stands to reason that Latinos have the highest stake in immigration reform. Pew conducted a 2012 election exit poll and found that 77 percent of Hispanic voters would like to give undocumented immigrants the chance to apply for legal residency.

What incentive does a progressive Latino voter have in casting his or her ballot for Democratic Party candidates when the party leader continues to delay action on immigration reform? This is especially problematic when we consider Obama’s history of immigration policy — he has authorized higher monthly deportation rates than former President George W. Bush.

If my prediction is correct, then Republicans will have an even greater chance of building their majority in the House and taking control of the Senate. This would challenge Obama’s agenda for the remainder of his term by emboldening newly elected Republicans to obstruct any action to address the immigration crisis.

Moreover, a solidified conservative Congress may send problematic bills to Obama’s desk. These pieces of legislation might call for the deportation of anyone found to lack legal status in the United States, heightened border security and funding for more perilous fences between the U.S. and Mexico.

While Obama’s decision to delay executive action on immigration reform may have been well-intended, there is a strong possibility that it will backfire. This would not only harm Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party, but it would also inhibit any chance of passing strong immigration reform in the years to come.