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Opinion

Editorial: Let election set direction on immigration reform

President Barack Obama at the NATO summit in

President Barack Obama at the NATO summit in Newport, Wales on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Credit: AP

President Barack Obama's abrupt decision to postpone executive action on immigration until after November's midterm election is an astonishing about-face.

Until Saturday's revelation, Obama was on track to act on his own by the end of summer. That's what he pledged in June after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) alerted him that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives wouldn't take up immigration reform this year. Obama apparently changed his mind Friday during his flight home from a NATO meeting in Wales.

That decision dashed the hopes and dreams of many Hispanics and other reform advocates who've been waiting his entire time in office for a breakthrough on immigration. It's unclear what specific changes Obama had in mind, but delay was clearly a partisan political call.

Democratic members of Congress in tough, red-state re-election races have to face voters opposed to reform. Those voters would have been angered and energized had Obama, for example, granted legal status to millions of immigrants here without documentation.

Congressional action is the best way forward on the volatile issue. Executive orders could widen the partisan divide and make Congress even less likely to step up, if that's possible. So it isn't a bad idea to give voters a chance to signal what they want on immigration now that the politics of reform has been roiled by the surge of unaccompanied Central American minors at the border.

Congress has a responsibility to stanch the flow of people illegally entering the country, to address the status of millions already here and to expand visa programs that allow legal entry for highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs and farm laborers who are critical economically for the nation and Long Island. Delay must not be a prelude for doing nothing.

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