Washington Kicks the Can Down the Road; States Take the Lead

President’s Decision to Delay Executive Action Creates Electoral Challenges

In early September, the President announced he would delay any executive action that would mitigate the failure of Congress to enact immigration reform, providing relief for families being split apart by deportation. The rationale given by the President was that the Central American child refugee crisis has affected the timeline for an announcement on executive action. Mr. Obama told NBC on September 6,

“I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action… (and) 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,” Mr. Obama said.

Democratic Senators Urge Obama to Hold Off

Leading up to the decision to spend more time making sure the American people understand why executive action is needed, several Democratic incumbent senators and senatorial candidates in Republican-leaning states—among them Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Michelle Nunn of Georgia and Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky—had been urging the president to hold off on taking action. They feared such a move would harm their electoral chances. In those states, the Latino electorate is small. The only state where there is a competitive Senate race this year and a significant pool of Latino voters is Colorado. Democratic senators Bill Nelson of Florida, Al Franken of Minnesota, and Independent Angus King of Maine (who caucuses with Democrats) also expressed concerns.

Complicating matters is a turn in public opinion on immigration since the Central American refugee crisis began, with an uptick in the percentage of Americans favoring a focus on border security.

So, regardless of the American people’s understanding of the need for executive action, the political calculation weighed against action prior to the election.

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