Over three years ago I created a list of ten ways that President Obama could use his administrative powers to effect positive change in our immigration system without waiting for Congress. Here’s the link to my article from May, 2011: http://immigrateme.com/top-10-ways-obama-can-tackle-immigration-reform-without-congressional-approval/
Well three years later President Obama has implemented some of my recommendations but immigrant rights advocates are still waiting for comprehensive immigration reform. To be specific he’s granted deferred action to some of the individuals who would have qualified under the failed DREAM Act, applied Parole in Place to spouses and parents of active military and veterans, and allowed the expanded use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration proceedings. But there’s still one left that I’m hoping his long hyped September announcement will achieve: #10 Legalize Everyone. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was limited to those who’d entered the country before the age of 16, had no serious criminal record, were under 31 at the time of his announcement, had lived in the US for the 5 years immediately preceding his announcement, and had graduated high school, gotten their GED or were in the process of completing either of these. There’s no reason why Obama needed to include these restrictions though. Deferred action is an entirely executive action and at the discretion of the administration.
There is no dispute that our immigration system is broken. More people want to come here than we let in; we separate people not only from jobs, but more importantly from their families. Even spouses of US citizens can be permanently barred from getting their legal permanent residency even though they’ve never committed a crime. I regularly ask people who think we should focus on border security before implementing immigration reform how high of a fence would have to be built to separate them from their wives and children. No fence could effectively separate families, nor should it try.
Even before tens of thousands of children fleeing violence came to our border seeking protection, the immigration system in this country was a disaster from a humanitarian standpoint. Now, the Republican leadership has openly said it won’t be taking any action on immigration reform: Boehner Tells Obama Immigration Reform Won’t Happen This Year, So Now Obama Will Take Action Himself. So the only humanitarian solution to stop further deportations and separation of families is this: deferred action. A two year pause to the deportations of immigrants without a criminal record.
For immigration skeptics out there let me explain to you what deferred action would, and wouldn’t do for these immigrants. It would give these people, who are already here the right to work and not be deported for two years. It also means they can pay taxes on their earnings, drive legally, and carry insurance. That’s all. It’s not a green card (i.e. legal permanent residency). It’s not a path to citizenship. It doesn’t allow anyone to “cut in line” in front of the tens of thousands of individuals patiently waiting for their visas to become available. (And by patiently waiting I mean since 1991 in some categories). We are a nation of laws and the law allows President Obama to do this, we are a nation of economists and economists say we should do this, and we are a nation of families and our families are begging you to do this. #GoBigObama