The worst part about the decades-long stalemate in Congress over immigration reform is that the big-issue politics keep practical problems from being solved. President Barack Obama has stepped into this vacuum.
The worst part about the decades-long stalemate in Congress over immigration reform is that the big-issue politics keep practical problems from being solved.
President Barack Obama has stepped into this vacuum, using the tools available to the executive branch to improve and better target immigration enforcement and regulation.
Under his administration, deportation of immigration violators has reached record levels. Along with a slumping job market here and growing economies in countries such as Brazil and China, new enforcement measures have significantly slowed the flow of illegal immigration.
Obama’s enforcement efforts include the controversial Secure Communities program, which enlists local law enforcement in federal efforts to deport illegal immigrants. Secure Communities has been unpopular with immigration advocate groups over the deportation of thousands of immigrants who pose no threat to their communities.
Obama’s effort to focus the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department on those who have committed serious crimes would help, but he’s seeing resistance from the union representing ICE agents, which is refusing to undergo training in the new guidelines, The New York Times reports.
Last week, Obama took an important step toward making the process of resolving immigration cases more efficient and more humane.
Under current law, U.S. citizens who have spouses or children living illegally in the U.S. are entitled to file applications for green cards — legal resident status — on behalf of their relatives. But illegal relatives must go to their country of origin first to apply for a visa, and they must wait at least three years –– and often as long as 10 years –– before they can return.
The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services can grant a waiver for the waiting period, but the applicant must return to his home country to wait for the waiver, which can take months, years or may never be granted.
No one wants to be separated from his or her spouse or young children for years at a time, even if the process eventually delivers a much-coveted green card. So thousands of people eligible for legal status and already connected to this country by the closest family ties choose to live in the shadows in order to keep their families together.
The administration has proposed a small procedural change that could have a big impact on such families. It would allow CIS to issue preliminary waivers to applicants before they leave the country to apply for a visa. The waiting period for visas would be shortened as well.
Administration officials say the change would save taxpayers money and increase efficiency and encourage countless illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows and resolve their immigrant status.
There are political implications behind these moves, of course. Obama wants to look tough on immigration violators, on one hand, while retaining the support of Hispanic voters on the other. But there are political implications behind every president’s acts.
What matters is whether those actions are within the president’s authority and making immigration to the U.S. more efficient, more just, more orderly, compassionate and fair.
-- The MetroWest Daily News (Mass.)