Report Says Obama Should “Go Big” on Immigration Action

Written by on July 2, 2014 in Executive Action, Reform with 4 Comments

13590863243_c033b32004_kThis week, President Obama concluded that the House would not act on immigration reform this year, leading him to announce that he would use his executive authority to fix what he could of the immigration system on his own. This is a welcome decision, although details of his plans are unlikely to unfold until later in the summer, following consultation with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder. There are no shortage of suggestions, however, about how the president can improve the current system, starting with a revision of current enforcement policies and expanding to include more permanent and temporary relief from removal. A timely new analysis from the Center for American Progress makes the case that the president should “go big,” implementing policies and programs that help the maximum number of people.

The CAP report delves into the background and legal authority for using executive branch authority in the context of immigration enforcement, noting that we have been down this road before. “As the Congressional Research Service has illustrated, categorical grants of affirmative relief to non-citizens have been made 21 times by six presidents protecting millions of immigrants just since 1976. What’s more, in many instances, Congress was actively considering legislation that would have provided relief to the groups of people protected by the executive action. That, of course, is precisely the case today.”

Frequently, presidents have deferred removal, as in the case of DACA, or granted Deferred Enforced Departure, as in the case of Nicaruaguan asylum seekers who waited 10 years for Congress to pass relief under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act of 1997.

As the report illustrates, a combination of need, congressional inaction, and public support have all been critical factors in decisions to grant broad protections to groups of immigrants. All of those factors indeed are present today—and in fact may be even more acute and affecting far more people than in years past.  Today we have a broken immigration system with an untenable deportation mentality, a House that cannot pass immigration reform despite the Senate reform bill’s success a year earlier, and a public that overwhelmingly supports reform. These factors provide President Obama with a strong basis for taking bold action and doing as much as he possibly can to stop deportations, keep families intact, and relieve pressure on workers and businesses who are contributing to the economy.

CAP’s report suggests that the most feasible “big” option is some form of deferred action, building on the successful model created under DACA. The report says that a range of factors, such as the likelihood of a legislative solution (for instance, including people eligible for relief under S. 744), length of time in the United States, nature of employment (like agricultural work), and family ties are all logical starting points for deciding who might qualify for a new program. A host of other issues will likely affect what an actual program looks like, but these parameters at least provide a set of questions that can and should be asked.

The commonsense ideas in the CAP report are part of a broader call for common sense solutions that have been in play since the president came to office back in 2008. Groups have repeatedly suggested administrative fixes to the way we process benefits that could make it easier for families to stay together, such as re-interpreting policy on the three- and 10-year bars or revisiting interpretations of various visa requirements. Similarly, there remain numerous changes to enforcement policy that could reduce the number of people deported annually. The administration can make a huge difference in people’s lives, even with small tweaks to its programs, and it can make an even bigger difference if it takes the leap to a more robust affirmative program of temporary relief.

Photo by Kelly Kline.

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  • Expansion of parole in place is an exponentially better solution for anyone undocumented with a visa number available, or an immigrant petitioner willing to file on their behalf.

  • James Leonard Park

    Public opinion polling might be a good way to discover which changes the President should make ahead of actual changes of immigration law. For example, do most Americans now support DACA, which has been operating for two years? This program can become law when the Congress passes the DREAM act. No matter what we do to reform our immigration laws and practices, we will need a list of all foreign nationals now settled in the USA. Such Registration without Deportation would extend deferred action to adults, especially those likely to qualify for American citizenship under any reasonable reform. The President can establish a registration program, which will then be the basis for future immigration reform:

  • Bao Duong

    Obama only supports illegal immigrants, not legal immigrants who respect the law and pay tax.
    Let vote and sign the petition and make your voice to Congress to expand Child Status Protection Act interpretation for all Family Third and Fourth preferences (automatic conversion and retention of their parents’ priority dates.) so children who are aged out are allowed to come to the States and reunite with their parents faster.
    Our country should have an immigration system that unites families, not one which needlessly separates them.
    Legal immigrants deserve fairness, unity and human,civil right
    Together we are strong!!

  • Bao Duong

    Let vote and sign the petition and make your voice to Congress to expand Child Status Protection Act interpretation for all Third and Fourth Family preferences (automatic conversion and retention of their parents’ priority dates.) That way would help children single but aged out, come to the States to reunite with their parents.
    Our country should have an immigration system that unites families, not one which needlessly separates them.
    Legal immigrants deserve fairness, family unity and human, civil right
    Together we are strong!!