Immigration Reform News 2014: Latino Officials Speak Out After Obama Postpones Action Until After 2014 Election
The U.S. government's failure to pass legislation addressing immigration reform and most recently President Obama's announcement he will delay reform until after the November election means state and city elected officials, who are often on the front lines of immigration, either have to deflect questions or come up with local solutions.
In New York, local officials created solutions to handle the influx of Central American children arriving in the city from the U.S. border. They created pro-bono legal services for minors when being processed through immigration courts, developed health and mental health programs to help many of those of had either witnessed violence or experienced it themselves, and they found homes, clothing, food and places in schools.
New York's Public Advocate created a legal taskforce to help give assistance to 3,500 children arriving in the state from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
"These children, as young as five years old, come without any knowledge of our legal system and are expected to represent themselves in immigration court," NY Public Advocate Letitia James told reporters at City Hall in August.
The Immigration Task Force will be run out of advocate's office to help partners recruit and train pro-bono attorneys to serve at the juvenile surge docket in Immigration Court at 26 Federal Plaza.
"As a public advocate and an attorney with Legal Aid Society, I will also serve as an attorney in this capacity pro-bono," James said, "to ensure that all children are protected from violence, abuse and exploitation regardless of their status."
When President Obama announced a delay on immigration reform until after the November election, having promised reform by September, New York's Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she was "extremely disappointed in the delay by the administration," according to the New York Daily News.
"The Council is working very hard to find creative ways to pick up where congressional Republicans and the federal government has continuously let us down."
Mexican-American City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Immigration Committee, said, "I've very disappointed that politics has yet again delayed justice for millions of people and residents from across the nation.
"It is unfortunate that the President is wavering on an issue that affects so many of my constituents locally and the immigrant community nationally," Menchacha said.
On Meet the Press on Sunday, President Obama explained to host Chuck Todd that immigration reform shifted politically when Central American children started arriving at the border.
A White House official speaking to CNN said President Obama had to "take this issue away from those who would use it to score points as a kind of grandstanding issue."
"It's too big of an issue to allow it to be used as a tool for people trying to get votes," the official said. "It isn't about votes for any particular candidate; it's about dealing with this issue in an environment that avoids the grandstanding we've seen in the past."
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