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Election Afterthoughts and Immigration Reform by Executive Action

imm_2I’ve taken some time to digest the 2014 midterm election results, and specifically in terms of what they mean for the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform.  At first blush, it doesn’t look great.  At second blush too.

Last week, however, the New York Times published (in my opinion) an excellent editorial, making the case why President Obama should go it alone and use his executive authority to give temporary protection to potentially millions of aliens unlawfully present in the United States.  I am well aware that this is a hotbed issue, and people have legitimately strong arguments on both sides of it.  I think the President should go for it, and it looks like he’s about to, perhaps as early as this week (and we’re informed not later than the end of the year).

To be honest, I have mixed emotions about President Obama.  But the reality is, the New York Times is absolutely correct in saying that “[s]ix fruitless years is time enough for anyone to realize that waiting for Congress to help fix immigration is delusional.”  It’s actually been longer than six years.  President George W. Bush tried for comprehensive immigration reform during his presidency, and that fell apart.  Others before him have tried and failed as well.

I’ve made this point before, but it really is worth repeating.  Our immigration system is broken.  Is it really practical to think that we’re going to deport 11 to 13 million aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States?  No.  Does it make sense that we educate foreign nationals at some of our best institutions of higher education, and then tell them that they can’t stay here because there’s no visa, either temporary or permanent, that allows them to?  No. Our immigration system is broken, and our national leaders, with the input of relevant stakeholders, should discuss, debate and implement comprehensive immigration reform.

Unfortunately, a legislative fix does not appear in the offing.  Thus, we’re now hearing (and reading) that President Obama may use his executive power to prevent the removal (commonly known as deportation) of anywhere between 3 and 5 million aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States.  The specifics are apparently still being worked out, but I’m hearing that those who are the parents of U.S. citizen children, or the spouses of U.S. citizens, will be allowed to remain in the United States, and even obtain permission to work, indefinitely.

Just so I am clear.  These individuals will not be afforded lawful permanent residence (i.e., a Green Card), nor will they be put on a path to citizenship.  Only Congress has the ability to make those types of changes (with, of course, the signature of the President).

This is not a perfect solution.  These individuals would (potentially) only be receiving a temporary reprieve from deportation.  Congress could change the law, or a future president could cancel President Obama’s program.  If that were to occur, those who participated in the program would be out in the open and thus exposed to removal.  Nevertheless, I think it’s a step in the right direction, and worth the risk for those aliens who would participate in it.

As the New York Times stated in its editorial, “[t]here will surely be intense debate when [President] Obama draws the lines that decide who might qualify for protection. Some simple questions should be his guide: Do the people he could help have strong bonds to the United States? Does deporting them serve the national interest? If it doesn’t, they should have a chance to stay.”  I agree.


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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

David W. Meyers, Esq. is managing partner of Meyers & Meyers, LLP. David works with individuals, businesses and higher education institutions helping them resolve any issues regarding immigration, citizenship and naturalization for themselves or their employees.

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