Politics appear to be at the heart of President Barack Obama’s decision last week to delay unspecified executive action on immigration until after the November mid-term elections.
Republican opposition and Democratic pushback helped force Obama’s hand.
“I suspect there was even greater pressure to do this ...” said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. “This has been a major issue Republicans have been running on.”
Immigration, already a hot-button issue, was given renewed attention in recent months as reports surfaced about a massive influx of children from Central America.
Republican David Perdue pounced on the issue Monday, using Obama’s announcement to attack his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, in the state’s U.S. Senate race.
“President Obama’s decision to delay executive action on amnesty until after Election Day is purely political in order to protect Senate Democrats and his hand-picked candidates like Michelle Nunn,” he said in a statement.
“Make no mistake, the president still intends to act unilaterally and grant amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants instead of working with Congress to secure our borders and enforce current laws.”
Perdue went on to chastise Nunn for supporting amnesty.
But Nunn has said she does not support Obama using his executive authority to address immigration.
“I do believe that we need to have Congress and the president work together,” she said at a Georgia Chamber of Commerce forum last month. “We need to get out of the executive order business and into the compromising, collaboration and partnership business in Washington.”
Bullock said Perdue’s criticism of Nunn on the issue of immigration is meant to tie the Democrat to Obama.
And, he added, had the president taken executive action now, it would have underscored Republican opposition.
For Maria Palacios, 24, the politics swirling around the immigration debate hits home.
Palacios’ parents first came to the United States on work visas in the 1980s. They made a living as migrant farmers in California, but returned to Mexico for a brief time, where Palacios was born.
The family later moved to Florida, then Hall County, where Palacios spent most of her childhood and went on to graduate from Gainesville High School.
“I know a lot more about Hall County than I do about Mexico,” she said.
Now a finance major at the University of North Georgia and member of the Latino Student Association, Palacios, who has permanent resident status, will apply for American citizenship this month.
She said getting to this point has been extremely lengthy and trying on her family.
For instance, Palacios spent four months in Mexico several years ago while attending an immigration hearing before finding a sponsor, meeting several other conditions and being allowed to re-enter the United States.
But two older siblings remain in limbo, stuck in Mexico since 2009 as they await permission to return.
Palacios said she supports executive action in the absence of congressional compromise because she fears that more families, like hers, might be split up by the current immigration process.
“I know (Obama) was in a tight spot ...” she added. “However, I was very surprised. I didn’t expect him to delay action because of the political spot he’s in.