More Right-Handed Pot Stirring: Internal USCIS Draft Memo Exploited for Political Gain

Conspiracy theorists hate it when no one pays attention. Witness last month’s letter to President Obama in which eight Republican Senators accused him of planning to circumvent the will of Congress through a regulatory grant of “amnesty” suggesting that plans were afoot in the Department of Homeland Security to make it happen. Despite their mock outrage, the letter barely made a ripple in the immigration debate. And just a few days after his speech on immigration, President Obama unequivocally stated that he wanted a real solution to our immigration crisis, rejecting both a free pass for all undocumented immigrants and a scorched earth, deport them all approach.

And now the National Review has obtained a copy of the “smoking gun” draft USCIS memo that refers to many of the issues the Senators cryptically reference in their hastily worded letter. Restrictionists and anti-government folks alike are already pointing to it as proof that President Obama intends to do an end run around Congress to grant all 10.8 million deferred action (which drastically mischaracterizes the memo). Coming just a day after the striking repudiation of Arizona’s SB 1070 by federal district court judge Susan Bolton—which represents a vindication of the Administration’s strategy to protect federal jurisdiction over immigration law—this latest “amnesty” scare is just the latest in the attempt to distract the public and derail genuine immigration reform.

The memo itself, which is clearly a draft, has no date and can’t be taken as Administration policy. The pieces have the feel of cutting and pasting. The language and tone vary from section to section and it has the names of senior officials on it—a practice USCIS ended months ago. USCIS has released a statement noting, “Internal draft memos do not and should not be equated with official action or policy of the Department.”

The memo lists a variety of ways that the Administration—working WITHIN existing law—could improve the plight of the many immigrants who have legitimate gripes with our current immigration system. What’s so wrong with USCIS revisiting a number of outdated practices and very old legal interpretations that hinder the ability of US citizens to reunite with family members, keep employers and employees from enjoying the full benefits of immigration visas designed to further business growth, and ignore both more efficient and cost effective ways of doing business? The authors of this memo deserve credit for stating the obvious but often unsaid point—USCIS can and should do more to use its existing regulatory authority to improve the delivery of immigration services.

Improve the delivery of immigration services? That job is made harder every day by Congress’s failure to act. As the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) has reported, many of the problems with our immigration system stem from out of date laws that create inefficient and broken bureaucratic systems. Good for you, USCIS, for trying to do what it can within that broken system. Ironically, the options suggested in the memo note that implementation of various proposals would take more than a year since there would have to be regulations, public comment, training, etc. In other words, in order to make any of these proposals happen, the drafters recognized that there were long and complicated regulatory processes that would have to be followed, giving Congress and the public plenty of time to weigh in.

Deferred action for limited groups of undocumented folks—like DREAM Act students—has been discussed among bi-partisan groups in Congress for some time (see this letter from Senators Lugar and Durbin to Secretary Napolitano). However, it seems pretty clear that any kind of broad attempt to defer action of all undocumented people would be costly and controversial and would probably require Congressional action in the form of appropriations. As the IPC noted last month, and as President Obama said in his speech on immigration, a wholesale effort to stop all deportations is never going to happen for practical reasons and was confirmed again by USCIS yesterday when they noted,“To be clear, DHS will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population.”

So this is another tempest in a teapot—one that may backfire on pot stirrers for two reasons: First, the memo simply shows that the Obama Administration cares about making immigration better. Second, on the same day this was released, Senator Lindsay Graham dropped the far more controversial bombshell that he wants to introduce a constitutional amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship—something far more damaging to our immigration system and the Fourteenth Amendment than any draft memo. Doris Meissner, a former US Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner and senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, commented that ending birthright citizenship would be “against our best interests as a country” and added “there is little evidence to suggest a large number of illegal immigrants come over to the United States in order to have children. The real problem, she said, is that illegal immigrants need jobs.”

Photo by laughingmonk.

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  1. deborah gordillo says:

    im married to mexicano and we have tryed to get him help but they wont him to go back to mexico . i ask you these who is going to help me in the time he is waiting there.im vert sick he is all i have and it would kill me if he had to back with out me . we need to do somethink now help them they have helped us over the year . you can think about the next time you eat a apple or anythink that in grow outside . god bless you

  2. SPO101 says:

    I want AZ Governor Jan Brewer to show papers to prove she’s a human being. I think it was FOX that did a show on extraterrestrials that live among us, and Governor Brewer does resemble some alien from a B Movie, “Invasion of the Brain Snatchers”, right? I’ve have my suspicions about people like Jan Brewer, Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove because of their lack of human qualities.

    As far as the immigration issue goes… Republicans never made a big deal about immigration enforcement during Bush/Cheney but NOW all conservative hell is breaking loose… even though the Obama Administration is deporting MORE illegal’s than Bush ever did. Maybe we should adopt Ronald Wilson Reagan’s immigration policy (look it up morons)

    And funny how I didn’t hear NOT ONE WORD on the Cable News about AZ Gov. Jan Brewer’s connection with the Corrections Corp of America. Not to mention I could stop this immigration problem with one thing… ARREST ALL THOSE conservative business people WHO ARE HIRING THE ILLEGAL WORKERS! Republican Party = Hypocrisy

    On 7-28-10 I was watching Republicans on Morning Joe (MSNBC) preach about being ADULTS when it comes to our economic meltdown. I say BS! The real ADULTS are trying to demand accountability from those who got us in this financial mess. Republicans want to shift the burden of responsibility on Teachers unions and others in the American working class.

    I wonder if the spoiled Silver Spoons on Morning Joe knew how much they hurt Democrats, Progressives, Liberals when they didn’t challenge NJ Gov. Christie. NOW all over the internet the Conservative wacko groupies are swooning all over Christie like he was a rock star. Of course, because of these Republican low grade thought processes, the right wing monkeys now consider teachers, poor people and immigrants the biggest threat to our economy.

    What kind of Americans are stupid enough to believe decent wages/working conditions, regulation, Wall St. reform and making the rich pay their fair share are BAD THINGS! Republicans will take tax dollars away from grade schools to give BP tax breaks/subsidies. DON’T BELIEVE ME, you rightwing numbskulls, CHECK IT OUT FOR YOURSELVES!
    consciousmc.blogspot.com

  3. Montana says:

    “House Bill 2013″ and “SB1070″

    0 = Arizona
    2 = USA/ Our Constitution/ We the People of the United States

    We are a country that is ruled by the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, not by the majority of the day. When you do not know the principles in these documents, therein lays the problem in losing when you are challenged in court.

    This month of July 2010, our U.S. Federal courts have found the so called State of Arizona hate filled legislation namely “House Bill 2013″ and “SB1070″ Un-constitution (So much for the intellect of Jan Brewer, “Did you read the bills you signed?”). But we all know that they will go crying to the Supreme Court of the United States, please, please, please go. We will fight you in Arizona, any other state, and yes in Washington DC. We will not tire, we will not be silent and we will persevere, I promise you.

    In my opinion the Republican Party has been taken over the most extreme of clans; the Baggers, Birthers and Blowhards (people who love to push their beliefs and hate on others while trying to take away the rights of those they just hate) and that’s who they need to extract from their party if they real want to win in November. Good Luck, because as they said in WACO, “We Ain’t Coming Out”.

    It’s all about politics: Jan Brewer you were never elected to be Governor, but you have no problem trying to get elected on the back of undocumented workers, you loser (sure you may win but the long-term effects to your so called State is just beginning). Here is a partial list of your hate filled legislation;

    1. S.B. 1070,
    2. House Bill 2013
    3. No permit conceal weapons law,
    4. The famous Birthers law,
    5. Banning Ethnic studies law,

    6. Could she be behind the Mural in Prescott, Arizona, ordered to be whiten,
    7. On deck to pass, no citizenship to babies born to undocumented workers,

    8. If she can read she should look up Arizona’s House Bill 2779 from two years ago (which was un-constitution and failed when legally challenged),
    9. The boycotted Martin Luther King Day, what idiots don’t want another holiday? Yes, you guessed it Arizona.

    Well Arizona, you can keep boycotting new holidays, passing hate filled legislation and the rest of our country will continue to challenge you in court of law and Boycott your so-called state.

    Lets face it, no one can real believe anything that comes out of Brewer’s mouth, in an interview, this year, in an attempt to gain sympathy, she first said her father had died in Germany fighting the Nazi in World War II (which ended 1945) but of course we find out the truth that father was never in Germany and died in California in 1955. But we are suppose to believe everything else she says, right!

    As they say in the World Cup: Gooooooooal!

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