Mexico and Central America, the regions whose citizens would most benefit from President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, reacted with dismay and confusion to this week’s court-ordered delay of the measures.
The governments of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras said they profoundly regretted the court decision that, at least temporarily, blocks efforts by millions of Mexicans and Central Americans to remain in the United States legally.
A federal judge in Texas issued the injunction Monday, putting on hold a program Obama announced in November that would defer deportation for millions of immigrants. It came two days before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was to start accepting applications for the program.
Mexico said derailing the legalization of immigrants ultimately hurts the United States too.
"We reiterate that [Obama’s executive-action] programs mean just migratory relief for millions of families and could make possible contributions by Mexican migrants to the U.S. economy and society," the Mexican Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement.
"The Foreign Ministry calls on the Mexican community to remain informed about the development of the judicial-review process through official sources," the statement said, cautioning Mexican nationals against possible fraudulent efforts by unscrupulous immigration brokers.
Guatemala also told its citizens to pay close attention to the developments on whether the immigration relief will become a reality.
Many Mexicans and Central Americans had already gathered their proof-of-residence documents and other papers to apply for the measures that would allow them to stay in the U.S. legally and obtain official work permits.
Mexican nationals make up the largest single group of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. and stand to benefit the most. Central Americans, primarily from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, fed the surge of young migrants, including many unaccompanied children, who swamped the southern border of the United States last summer.
They were fleeing rampant gang violence and endemic poverty while availing themselves of what many thought was a new leniency for entering the U.S. However, they will not benefit from Obama’s executive actions because they have not been in the United States long enough.
The presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are scheduled to meet with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden next week, and they probably will talk about immigration. The government of El Salvador called on Washington to resolve the issue quickly.
“We respect the internal judicial decisions” of the U.S., the government said, but “call for a swift search for measures that promote migratory stability for all migrants who obey U.S. law.”
Sergio Alcocer, the Mexican foreign ministry’s deputy secretary of state for North America, told local newspapers that the court’s decision was a bump in the road and that it probably would be resolved favorably for Obama and his immigration policies.
The Mexican government has generally been careful not to appear to be interfering in U.S. immigration policy to avoid spoiling advances. Still, Mexico has been ramping up its consular presence across the U.S. -- there are now 50 nationwide -- with the hope of assisting Mexican nationals in availing themselves of new immigration benefits.