10/30/2014 05:11 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2014

With the Elections Coming to an End, It's Time for Executive Action


Our communities suffer every day from the ongoing lack of immigration reform. As the midterm elections draw near, the president's decision to delay executive action until after the mid-term continues to be a source of disillusion and disappointment to countless Latino voters who have undocumented family and friends. It was a miscalculation to delay action on immigration back in September, and it will continue to be a blight on the community's trust of the administration if, after November 4, President Obama does not act swiftly and use his authority to remedy the inaction of a gridlocked Congress.

Once Election Day has passed, the president will have few reasons not to act boldly on immigration. It's not as if the relevant authorities on the subject are unsure on whether President Obama ought to get working on fixing our broken immigration system. Just this week, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano, urged President Obama to exercise his constitutional authority by taking executive action on immigration reform. "If Congress refuses to act and perform its duties, then I think it's appropriate for the executive to step in and use his authorities based on law . . . to take action in the immigration arena," Napolitano told The Washington Post.

Napolitano ought to know. Under her leadership, DHS successfully initiated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. DACA, an executive action taken by Obama administration after previous efforts such as the DREAM Act had failed, allowed qualifying undocumented youth to apply for provisional work permits, temporary relief from deportation, and in most states driver's licenses so that they could stop living in constant fear of senseless deportation to a country they had never known, and instead begin pursuing their educational and career aspirations in the only home they had ever known -- America.

Now, in the wake of Congress' failure to fix a broken immigration system that the American public, the Chamber of Commerce, faith leaders, labor unions, farmers, and other sectors of civil society all want to see reformed, it is once again time for the president to take executive action and provide relief to the millions of people affected by our outdated and backward immigration policies.

It helps to take a brief look back at how we got to this point. The Senate's bipartisan immigration reform bill of 2013 would have offered legalization and a road to earned citizenship to at least eight million of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Were it not for the failure of the House Republican Leadership, similar legislation would have successfully passed through that chamber, and across the country people would be lining up to get in compliance with the law and fix their immigration status for good.

Mr. President -- you know, and we know, that action on immigration has to come soon. After Election Day, we expect to see action that is big and bold.