President Obama has a 10-point plan on immigration policy to be passed via executive action. In the U.S., laws are generally decided through Congress – the Legislative branch of government – which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. The President – the Executive branch – signs bills into law. Sometimes the Supreme Court – the Judicial branch of government – issues decisions. In the case of immigration, the President would make the decision unilaterally, perhaps as early as next week.
The Republican party, led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has spoken out in great opposition to a solitary decision by the President. He says that Congress must weight in on the decision. However, since President Obama’s first term in office, the House, which is largely Republican, has blocked him on many counts, making it extremely difficult for bills authored by Democrats to be passed.
Without a strong track record during his two terms in office, President Obama appears ineffective. With the largely Republican Senate set to begin in January, the President has little choice but to assert his agenda on immigration without the support of Congress. He has the Executive right to do so, although he is already receiving strong backlash, particularly from Speaker Boehner, who vowed to fight the President “tooth and nail” on the issue. Both immigrant groups and conservative U.S. citizens are vocal about their anger. Immigrants are impatient about having waited so long to get resolution.
President Obama’s 10-point executive immigration plan, that he plans to pass, is as follows:
1. Young undocumented immigrants would be offered reprieve from deportation, expanding on the “Dream Act.” That is the June 2012 amnesty for anyone who came to the U.S. as children. The new regulation would extend the age of entrance to age 16 and change the cut-off from June 2007 to January 1, 2010, opening options for an additional 300,000 undocumented immigrants.
2. Parents of young undocumented immigrants would be offered additional reprieve, with the stipulations of having been in the U.S. for over five years and having children who are either legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens. This would open the door for an additional 4.5 million undocumented immigrant adults.
3. Serious criminals would have expedited deportations. This would pinpoint anyone considered to be a threat, including gang members.
4. The ‘Secure Communities’ program would be discontinued and replaced with a different one. This program has been controversial because it allows the FBI to take fingerprint information from local jails and check it against databases of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
5. Increase salaries of ICE officers. The reason behind this is to boost the morale of these employees. It is unclear how this would affect the interface between the administration’s immigration policies and those of ICE union employees.
6. Increase visas for high-tech immigrants. The purpose behind this would be to support U.S. businesses through the hiring of international professionals. The outcome would be a path to citizenship for an additional 500,000 immigrants.
7. Strengthen border security. Additional resources would be committed to the border that the U.S. shares with Mexico to respond more swiftly to traffic of undocumented people. This is in direct response to the over 90,000 unaccompanied minors who crossed the border from Central America this summer.
8. Expand waivers to undocumented spouses and children of legal permanent U.S. residents. This program was announced in January 2013. The program would be expanded, allowing them to remain in the U.S.
9. Expand ‘parole’ for immigrant relatives and spouses of U.S. military. This allows undocumented family members of the military to “remain on parole” if they are already here in the U.S. The expansion would include undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens.
10. Reduce fees for naturalization by half. This would reduce the cost of $680 by 50 percent for the first 10,000 who apply through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Two and a half years ago, President Obama carried out an executive order to provide an “amnesty loophole” through ICE. The order affected undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children (before age 16), who had lived in the U.S. for at least five consecutive years, and had not been convicted of a crime or pose a security threat.
These individuals, if self-identified, were not to be deported. Instead, they were allowed to have “work permits” and possibly be on track for citizenship. This order affected between nearly one million persons who qualified for the exception. Thus, President Obama’s current 10-point plan to pass immigration reform by executive order has reminders of history. The outcome of the President’s efforts and the fight promised by the House Speaker remains to be seen.
By Fern Remedi-Brown