Group Highlights Administrative Fixes to the Immigration System Absent Federal Reform

Virtually every time anyone proposes administrative reforms to the immigration system, someone in Congress calls it amnesty. The discussion at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) today, in which immigration policy experts discussed six administrative fixes that the Obama team could implement without legislation, shows just how much can be done with executive branch authority. The report, Executive Action on Immigration: Six Ways to Make the System Work Better, authored by Donald Kerwin, Doris Meissner, and Margie McHugh, suggests specific policy measures which could, during a period of congressional inaction, help “improve and strengthen the performance of the nation’s immigration system.” The MPI authors recommend that the Obama administration:

  1. Define what constitutes “effective border control”;
  2. Create a White House Office on Immigrant Integration;
  3. Allow potential immigrants applying for waivers based on unlawful presence to do so in the U.S. as opposed to forcing them to leave and apply from a U.S. consulate abroad;
  4. Require DHS and DOJ to establish uniform enforcement priorities based on the existing guidance on prosecutorial discretion, and apply these enforcement priorities across all of the agencies;
  5. Require ICE attorneys to screen all Notices to Appear for removal proceedings in coordination with the prosecutorial discretion guidelines, reducing the load of the already clogged immigration courts; and
  6. Have Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) “issue guidance governing the circumstances in which due process requires the government to appoint counsel in removal proceedings.”

Also present at the event was Acting Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), Juan Osuna, who echoed the need to define “effective border control” and stated that it was tough to get any work done on the border because some politicians keep “moving the goalposts back.” The idea is that if the administration can define effective border control, they could work to reach these benchmarks and conduct an immigration debate which doesn’t begin and end with border security. Osuna’s goalpost sentiment was also expressed by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano last fall.

MPI author Margie McHugh, whose work focuses on immigrant integration, promoted the idea of a White House Office on Immigrant Integration. While this idea has been proposed in the past, McHugh stated that she was optimistic that this particular reform was one that could be accomplished in the next two years.

Leadership on integration is needed now more than ever, as the recent budget passed by the House and many state budgets seem set to cut immigrant integration programs. As MPI points out, while most of the debate on immigration has focused on highly controversial issues dealing with the unauthorized population and future flow, an integration program seeks to “promote the success” of immigrants lawfully admitted to the U.S., as well as the communities they reside in. A successful program would use educational tools like adult language education, community colleges and other postsecondary institutions to help integrate immigrants and their families, improving their quality of life as well as the quality of life for the community they reside in.

All of the proposals laid out by MPI today are common sense recommendations that ask the Administration to use its wide ranging authority with care and discipline. While these reforms only scratch the surface, they show that the Obama administration can act, even when Congress is at a standstill. These reforms are also better solutions than proposed state legislation which has generally proven to be costly, confusing, and less than constitutional. Hopefully, Obama administration officials present at today’s event were listening and , taking notes since these reforms could help set the stage for comprehensive immigration reform by creating some breathing room without raising the A word.

Photo by LadyDragonfly

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  • http://nacoocheepres.org Stanley and Dorothy Foster

    Number 3, allowing potential immigrants applying for waivers based on unlawful presence to do so in the U.S. as opposed to forcing them to leave and apply from a U.S. consulate abroad, make a lot of sense. A church member, a young woman who was brought to the U.S. as a child, is married to a U.S. citizen,and is required to leave her four children and go to Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent cities in the world, to apply for a waiver. To us this is a grave injustice.

    • Love2Watch

      This is exactly what happened to me, I am married to a US Citizen for almost 10 years and have a daughter and she is a legal permanent resident t of the United Stated. I was told by my lawyer that the only way to adjust my status is to leave the country and process my Visa at the Consular Post in the country where I came from. To make the story short I left the United Stated to secure my Visa upon interviewed by 2 Us Consulate, I was told to file an I-601 Waiver and that’s what we did after a month they request an RFE, and we provided what they needed. After 1 month we received a letter stated the reason of Denial of my Visa. We have filed for an appeal at AAO and 16 months has passed and we never heard from them.

      It’s been so traumatic for my husband and daughter for me not being there with them. Words cannot express how much traumatic this has become to me. I had lived my life in the US for almost 20 years and I had tried everyhting I could to have my status changed but it was in vain. If the AAO deny my appeal I have to wait 7 more years before reuniting with my family. I am almost 53 yearr old and my husband is 62 year of age and being separated miles and miles away it is very very defficlut. I did not commit a crime, I was working, paying my taxes and just taking care of my family needs. What hurt me the most is the Denial letter that they sent me, it said my case was denied to punish recidivists. Is unlawful presence a criminal behavior? I believed that it is a civil violation. But the denial is very very harsh and draconian.

  • Lee Luebbe

    Your recommendations to the Executive Branch are significant and if adopted by the Obama Administration would greatly and certainly make our President be a true leader in this complex issue of immigration. With the assistance of the Office of Immigrant Integration, the general public needs to start to realize the positive side of integrating immigrants into our economy and our society. IF we start to talk more about the economics of immigration, I believe people would begin to see the “green light”.

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