Until Saturday, 14-year-old Elena Marquez was full of hope—hope for herself and her siblings and, she told me, for other kids whose parents are undocumented. Then she heard that President Obama had decided to delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections. “He said, yes, he will, and then he won’t,” said Marquez, who lives in Homestead, Florida, and is a US citizen. “Why can’t the president make one choice?”
Marquez’s father was deported to Guatemala two years ago. She’s concerned about her mother—not just that she’ll be deported but also about the daily toll of living without papers. “My mom doesn’t have a doctor or a dentist or nothing, but we do. And to me that’s not fair. She doesn’t have the rights that we have,” she said.
The delay means that authorities will continue to deport unauthorized immigrants, perhaps as many as 60,000 between now and the November elections. Communities will continue to be subject to aggressive enforcement tactics, like the stop-and-frisk-style raids in New Orleans that I recently wrote about.
The delay also forces Latino and immigrant rights groups to recalibrate their political strategy. “There was a sense that we could get the executive order out of the way so we could focus in a really strong way on the election and getting Latinos out to the polls,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org. “This only forces us to continue to hold the president and Democrats accountable to a major constituency that has proven loyal but is certainly not locked in stone.”
Democrats have tried to keep the focus on House Republicans’ refusal to vote on comprehensive immigration reform legislation. But Tania Unzueta, an organizer with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, said that message isn’t resonating with the community now. “Our focus is going to be on making sure administrative relief happens. Right now, folks who can put that pressure on the president—that’s the Democrats.”
Activists are discussing a variety of strategies to respond to the delay, including work stoppages, national demonstrations and turning up the pressure on Democratic candidates in key districts. At least one group, Puente Arizona, has called for a boycott of the vote. “We cannot support a party that is destroying our families,” the organization’s director, Carlos Garcia, said in a statement.