Tag Archives: deferred action

EXECUTIVE REFORMS: Deferred Action for the Parents of U.S. Citizens and Residents

21 Nov

As Joe Biden once said, this is a “big f’in’ deal.”

The centerpiece of the President’s immigration reforms announced yesterday is the expansion of deferred action to cover certain foreign national parents of United States citizens. Here are the details:

The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service will give deferred action and employment authorization to individuals who

  • As of November 20, 2014, have a son or daughter who is a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • Entered the U.S. prior to January 1, 2010.
  • Are not in lawful status as of November 20, 2014
  • Are not an enforcement priority
  • Do not present other factors that weigh against a favorable exercise of discretion

People who fall within the DHS’ new enforcement priorities will be ineligible for deferred action.  With a new memo issued today, November 20, 2014, the DHS has revised the enforcement priorities for the agency.  The new enforcement priorities are divided into three levels of priority of decreasing priority.  Presumably, those not within the enforcement priorities memo are not enforcement priorities and should qualify for benefits and not be subject to efforts to seek removal. We have summarized the new enforcement priorities memo here.

Applicants will be required to provide fingerprints and undergo national security and criminal background checks.  The filing fee will be $465.  CIS has been directed to begin accepting applications no later than 180 days from the date of the announcement (May 19, 2015).

Over the coming weeks, Benach Ragland will hold reduced fee consultations for those who think they may qualify under this program.  We will also be holding free information sessions at community centers in the greater Washington metropolitan area.  For the latest information, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @BenachRagland.  To schedule a reduced fee consultation, please call 202-644-8600 or email msanchez@benachragland.com.

Is Executive Action on Immigration Imminent?

14 Nov

obama immigration reformIt is only fitting that major technological achievements like the successful placement of a lander on a comet be paired with news that the Obama administration is planning many reforms to our nation’s immigration policies.  After all, our space program and many of our most successful technological breakthroughs are directly related to an immigration policy that made it easier for the best and brightest to come and work here.  Yet, many worry today that our immigration system is so broken that it prevents the entry and lawful integration of hard workers struggling to improve their lives in the U.S.  The comet lander was a project of the European Space Agency and not NASA.

U.S. immigration policy today, instead, says no to the best and brightest, rejects those who are willing to perform jobs that others refuse to do, and breaks up families over minor violations.  In short, U.S. immigration policy not only does not help America grow, but is actually a hindrance.  Most people of fair judgment recognize this.  Last year, the Senate took a step to make some needed reforms to U.S. immigration law.  While the bill the Senate passed was far from perfect, it would have gone a long way to fixing many of the problems with the immigration system.  However, the House of Representatives refused to take up the bill and instead voted to deport DREAMers and sue the President.

In light of the crisis in immigration, the President announced in June that he would make changes by the end of the summer in regulations and policies to ameliorate the harsh edges of immigration law.  He pushed this back until after the November election to help certain Democrats retain their Senate seats, which they lost anyway.  Ironically, the one democrat that he could have helped with executive action, Mark Udall of Colorado, also lost, partially due to a discouraged Latino electorate.  Immediately after the drubbing Democrats took, the President reiterated his commitment to executive action on immigration reform.  Then IT happened.  A breathless report appeared last night (November 12) on FOX News stating that the President was going to announce his immigration “amnesty” plan on November 21 and he would legalize millions of immigrants.  The White House quickly denied that any final decisions had been made and that, certainly, no timelines had been promised.  Yet, today, the New York Times reported that the President was weighing an option that could provide up to 5 million immigrants with some type of DHS_cis_WR_atprotection from removal.  The NYT article stated that a central part of the plan is to provide deferred action, like DACA, to the parents of U.S. citizens or to people who have been here for a long period of time.  In addition, according to the Times:

Mr. Obama’s actions will also expand opportunities for immigrants who have high-tech skills, shift extra security resources to the nation’s southern border, revamp a controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, and provide clearer guidance to the agencies that enforce immigration laws about who should be a low priority for deportation, especially those with strong family ties and no serious criminal history.

A new enforcement memorandum, which will direct the actions of Border Patrol agents and judges at the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and other federal law enforcement and judicial agencies, will make clear that deportations should still proceed for convicted criminals, foreigners who pose national security risks and recent border crossers, officials said.

So far, these articles are the clearest indication that the President intends to do something about immigration.  And it appears that he is ready to do it soon.  It is important to note that nothing has been decided, no timetables have been set, and that the President is still free to choose to do nothing.  In addition, the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has stated that the House will fight him “tooth and nail” on administrative reform.

In the meantime, it does appear that some form of administrative reform is coming.  We still don’t know what it might look like.  We asked this in August and still do not know for sure.  Although we do have some ideas. People who may benefit, such as the parents of U.S. citizens, should make sure that they have certified birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax returns, dispositions of criminal charges, school records, church records, passports and other papers showing who they are, what they have done with their lives and why they deserve a chance to stay.  And, since it is ThrowOverwhelmedback Thursday, we offer you this post from just over two years ago about what immigrants should do while waiting for deferred action relief.  Many of the suggestions remain good advice.

Stay tuned.  We will give you accurate and current information as it happens.

DACA Renewals Begin!

5 Jun

 

DACA_benefits2

On June 5, 2014, the renewal process for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals starts for more than half-million DREAMERs who are already enrolled in the program. DREAMERs or DACA beneficiaries will continue to benefit from renewing driver’s licenses, working, and obtaining in-state tuition in at least 16 states.

To renew DACA, applicants must complete the recently released dual-use Form I-821D for initial and renewal DACA applications. Additionally, forms I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and I-765 Worksheet must be submitted, along with a $465 filing fee check or money order.

Renewal applicants are only required to submit new documents pertaining to criminal or removal proceedings history that have not already been submitted to USCIS.  Renewal applicants do not have to demonstrate initial eligibility all over again and must only provide updated information where information has changed.

Initial applications remain available for new applicants who meet all of the following requirements listed on the June 15, 2012 Napolitano memorandum:
• Entered the United States under the age of 16;
• Have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years preceding June 15, 2012;
• Were present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
• Were not in lawful status on June 15, 2012;
• Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
• Are currently in school, has graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces; and
• Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to the national security of public safety.

To avoid a lapse in employment, DACA renewal applications should be submitted 120-150 days prior to their DACA expiration date.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Will the Courts Invalidate Deferred Action?

24 Apr

KeepCalmStudio.com-[Crown]-Keep-Calm-And-Apply-For-Daca

There is much hue and cry over a federal district court judge possibly blocking the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In a lawsuit filed by Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, on behalf of ICE Union head, Christopher Crane, challenging the DACA program, Judge Reed O’Connor (Northern District of Texas) has indicated that he is likely to find that the program violates federal law.

Previously, Judge O’ Connor had ruled that agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement had standing to bring suit as the prosecutorial discretion directive urged them to violate federal law, and the agents believed that by not following the directive, they would be subject to discipline and other adverse employment consequences.

Beneficiaries and recent applicants for the deferred action program should rest assured that even if the lawsuit is successful, it should not invalidate or affect their ability to legally work and reside in the country.

First, the judge has not yet issued a preliminary injunction against DACA. In fact, the case presents complicated issues of whether the federal judge even has jurisdiction to hear the case as it appears to be an employment dispute. Judge O’Connor has therefore asked the parties–the Department of Justice and lawyers for the ICE Union–to brief whether the  Collective Bargaining Agreement and the CSRA bars the federal district court from hearing the case.

Second, even if Judge O’ Connor grants a preliminary injunction, there are additional questions as to whether the injunction only affects applications filed in the Northern District of Texas. Regardless of the answer, the Department of Justice is likely to file an appeal to the Fifth Circuit, and seek a stay of the injunction, such that the operation of the deferred action program continues smoothly.

Third, upon appeal, the Fifth Circuit is likely to uphold deferred action. Prosecutorial discretion has a long history in U.S. immigration law and agency practice, so Judge O’ Connor is simply wrong in stating that immigration laws mandate the detention of non-citizens present in the U.S. without legal status. In fact, Judge O’ Connor erroneously finds that DHS has prosecutorial discretion in the latter stages through the cancelling of removal proceedings but not in the initial stages, which hardly makes any sense.

In the meantime, the DACA program continues to be available to eligible undocumented youth. Prosecutorial discretion is also unlikely to go away and a federal judge in Northern Texas does not have the ability to undo decades of U.S. immigration law.

We will continue to document the efforts of bureaucrats within ICE to stymie intelligent immigration enforcement through insubordination, lawsuits, leaks, and more generic tactics like refusal to complete trainings and sick-outs.

The lesson of the day is hence, keep calm and keep applying for DACA.

Why has my case been transferred to California?

4 Mar

California

Recently, the Citizenship & Immigration Service sent out thousands of notices to people with applications pending notifying them that their application has been transferred to the California Service Center.   Many DACA applicants with applications pending in the Vermont Service Center received this notice as did many individuals with applications for adjustment of status.  Clients often called, panic-stricken, and ask “what does it mean??”

Quite simply, it means that there was an imbalance in the workload between the two Service Centers.  There were too many applications for the adjudicators in Vermont and too many adjudicators in California with time on their hands.  So, CIS shifted some applications from Vermont to the less busy California Service Center.  That’s it.  Workload allocation and management.  Nothing sinister or foreboding.  CIS periodically makes such adjustments between Service Centers and always causes some anxiety on behalf of applicants.  It only means that the transferred case has a better chance of being resolved more quickly than it did if it sat idle in an overburdened office.

So, relax.  It’s California, after all.

The Whine of the ICE Bureaucrats

3 Feb

agents-overview

It has been a tough week for the ICE bureaucrats who have sought to undermine the political leadership of this country to pursue their own restrictivist and nativist agenda.  Regular readers of this blog (my wife and my mother), will know that we have sought to document the efforts of bureaucrats within ICE to stymie intelligent immigration enforcement through insubordination, lawsuits, leaks, and more generic tactics like refusal to complete trainings and sick-outs.  But, like their pals Kris Kobach, Steve King, Jeff Sessions, and Joe Arpaio, time has passed them by and they continue their ignominious descent into laughable irrelevance.

Last week, we saw politicians competing to put forward the most comprehensive immigration reform.  The President outlined a plan.  We saw Republicans and Democrats, who could not agree on anything for close to four years, all agree that immigration reform is needed and that a path to citizenship is an essential to that effort.  We learned that the even the House has a bipartisan working group planning to develop its own immigration legislation.  Simultaneously, a federal judge in Dallas, Texas dealt a near fatal blow to the ICE agents lawsuit, where they alleged potential injury if they refused to follow the DHS secretary’s directives regarding DACA.  While the Judge did not entirely dismiss the lawsuit, FOBR Ben Winograd at the Immigration Policy Center described the lawsuit as” hanging by a thread.”  Bad week to be on the losing side of history.

Increasing the hope that immigration reform will finally happen in 2013 is the largely unanimous support of reform by the country’s major labor organizations.  The AFL-CIO and the SEIU, the country’s two largest union organizations, are major supporters of immigration reform.  But just when you thought that the unions had finally come together with the business community, there is one union that wants you to know that they are not on board.  Guess who?  The American Federation of Government Employees National ICE Council issued a press release to declare that the AFL-CIO does not speak for the ICE union.  The union wrote: “Respectfully, we see a lot of problems with the recently proposed reforms and we plan to exercise our rights as American’s to participate in the democratic process and voice those concerns publicly in the upcoming months; we hope to do so without groups like the AFL-CIO demonizing us for expressing a different opinion.”

Screen-shot-2012-01-08-at-8.22.32-AM

With all due respect, the position of the ICE agents union is crystal clear.  They so believe in an anti-immigrant policy where their actions are not subjected to meaningful review that their views are meaningless in an effort to reform the immigration law in a way to break their power.  The ICE bureaucrats are afraid of being demonized for participating in the democratic process.  Well, welcome to the arena, folks.  You can’t continue to say outlandish and self-interested garbage and not be called out on it.  The bureaucrats have always had a weak grip on the basics of democracy.  While begging to be treated with kid gloves, the ICE bureaucrats union has staged a vote of no confidence in ICE’s political leadership, sued the Department to stop DACA, and has encouraged its members not to follow the direction of their management.  In the military and any other law enforcement agency, that is known as insubordination and can result in dismissal or, in the case of the military, the brig.  But ICE bureaucrats ask not to “be demonized.”

If the ICE bureaucrats do not want to be demonized, they should stop resisting efforts to create intelligent immigration policy and participate in implementing immigration law, both today’s and tomorrow’s in a more humane and useful way.

The Immigration Industrial Complex

9 Jan

5a6cb_man-shocked-at-billThe Migration Policy Institute recently released a study documenting that the U.S. government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement, dwarfing the $14 million spent on other federal law enforcement agencies. The FBI, the DEA and the ATF, combined, received $14 billion.  Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s budget, alone, is $6 billion.  Something is seriously out of whack here.

None of this is surprising to immigration attorneys.  ICE runs a gulag archipelago of detention centers across the country, holding immigrants who have overstayed visas, entered without inspection, seek asylum, and  committed minor offenses.  ICE has continued to push in the federal courts for expansive definitions of mandatory detention, even if it means detaining people for offenses committed decades ago.  In 2011, ICE detained over 429,000 people, more than any other single government entity.  More than the Bureau of Prisons, the States of California, Texas, Florida, and New York.  ICE operates in its own jails, rents out space at local jails and contracts with private companies like the GEO corporation to manage this enormous population.  In addition, ICE has contracts with BI Incorporated to monitor individuals with final orders of removal.  This often involves ankle bracelets with GPS, telephonic and in-person reporting.  BI officials also monitor an individual’s efforts to obtain passports and plane tickets to depart the U.S. under an removal order.  In other words, they do ICE’s job.  And, frankly, they are pretty good at it.  Over 400,000 removals in 2011 shows how good BI is.  If budget hawks are serious about making government run like a business, how about saving money by eliminating the middleman?

The large budgetary excess for immigration enforcement also provides an explanation for the massive ICE resistance to immigration reform.  After all, if undocumented youth are getting DACA rather than being detained and deported, bed spaced is being underutilized and removals may go down.  In our current economic environment, it won’t be long before some budget-cutting legislator begins to question the excess of the the immigration enforcement budget.  If ICE were to exercise discretion and not detain and deport everyone that they possibly could, can they fulfill their contracts with the private companies that have built jails throughout the country.  If ICE were to take a more reasonable approach to enforcement, would they need to send out 20 agents before dawn to arrest four plumbers working a contract at Dulles because they are working on fake green cards?

The large amount of money at stake for immigration enforcement makes it clear that the efforts of some ICE bureaucrats to derail common-sense immigration reform is a result not of a principled belief in our national security and public safety, but rather to protect their exalted place at the public trough.

As we spend months debating the economic future of this country and what immigration reform will look like, it is worth contrasting the unproductive use of $18 billion tax dollars that ICE has commanded on an enforcement roid rage with the agreed-upon economic stimulus that would be provided by an immigration reform package.

DACA, Provisional Waivers, and de Osorio?

4 Jan

nancy_just_say_no1

The publication of the rule allowing for processing of provisional waivers for unlawful presence in the United States was another act of administrative rule-making that the President has undertaken to make the immigration laws more humane.  Over the past year, the effort at prosecutorial discretion, the introduction of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the provisional waiver have created a much improved immigration system that attempts to solve real immigration problems for families.

The President has been justly criticized for an enforcement-only approach to immigration.  It is clear that, early in the first term, the White House miscalculated in believing that if it demonstrated that it could enforce U.S. immigration law, it could persuade Republicans in Congress to support sensible immigration laws.  It did not work.  Despite record removals, many members of Congress labor under the fallacy that the President has refused to enforce immigration laws.  As the intransigence of Congressional Republicans made any meaningful immigration reform an impossibility, the administration has taken significant steps to make the immigration system better.

And make no mistake- these steps taken by the administration have made the immigration system better.  Critics can cite the low numbers of cases where prosecutorial discretion has been applied and the individual instances where prosecutorial discretion has been refused where it seems like the individual fit within the criteria.  The systems have not been perfect, but they are improved.  If one case was terminated as a result of memoranda issued in the past year, a benefit was received.  In the past, a request for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion was a last ditch and usually fruitless effort reserved for the saddest of cases.  It is now a routine part of representation and utilized successfully in cases where the law provides no options for relief.

In addition, I have seen the exercise of prosecutorial discretion bleed into areas other than the termination of cases.  I have seen the government agree to join motions to reopen to allow the spouses of citizens to adjust their status in the U.S.  This was a rarity before.  I won’t go so far as to say that they are regularly joined these days, but I have had more joined in the past year than in the previous five years.  DACA has been an amazing experience. Watching all of these kids get a chance to go to college or put their education to work has been an inspiration.  The country has benefited tremendously from the energy and vigor they have brought to our communities when the smallest of welcome was extended to them.

Finally, the provisional waiver will allow families to regularize their status without the risk of long term separation.  Thousands of families have refused to risk separation and have thus continued with one partner without status fearful of being stopped by the police and unable to find meaningful work.  The provisional waiver process should allow thousands of undocumented immigrants to get their residence properly.

The President has done this in the face of a hostile Congress colluding with an insubordinate agency.  ICE bureaucrats have been in open rebellion against liberalized immigration policies since the beginning of the President’s terms.  They have teamed with their Congressional supporters to accuse the administration of everything from allowing jihadis to roam free to making cynical ploys for Latino votes.  Luckily, these rear-guard actions have failed.  They are the death shrieks of a disappearing order, where once can say of Joe Arpaio, Russel Pearce, Kris Kobach, and Steve King, as Bob Dylan once did, “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is.

While there are countless other administrative actions that the administration can take, another step that would further demonstrate the administration’s willingness to place family unity and sensible immigration policy over “the way things have always been,” would be for the administration to forgo Supreme Court review in de Osorio v. Mayorkas, the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that allows the unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents who aged out of eligibility under petitions for their parents to receive credit for the time they waited under their parents’ petitions.  In de Osorio, the 9th Circuit joined the 5th Circuit in Khalid v. Holder rejecting the Board of Immigration Appeals decision in Matter of Wang.  Both Courts of Appeals decided that the plain language of the  Child Status Protection Act allowed kids who aged-0ut of eligibility under petitions filed for their parents to recapture the time that they waited when their parents, now permanent residents, filed petitions for them.  In Matter of Wang, the Board decided that the kids could not recapture that time and would have to go to the end of the line.  This resulted in what one brief in de Osorio calculated would be a 115 year wait for an unmarried adult son or daughter of a Mexican citizen!  The de Osorio decision has the potential to help ensure family unity for thousands of families where parents and minor children have received residence, but one or two older children aged-out.

The de Osorio decision came down on September 26, 2012 and the next stop for review is the Supreme Court.  The government has sought two extensions to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.  As of now, their petition for Supreme Court review, known as a petition for a writ of certiorari, is due on January 26.  If the government files a petition, the Supreme Court may or may not take the case.  However, the de Osorio case will likely not take effect until the Supreme Court decides whether to take the case.  If the Supreme Court takes the case, then we will have to wait until the Supreme Court decides the matter before we know anything further.  If the Supreme Court does not take the case, the de Osorio case will take effect and many people will become eligible for adjustment of status.

Of course, the government does not have to file a petition for a writ of certiorari.  They did not seek certiorari in Khalid.  Moreover, WHY??  Why appeal this?  What is the possible compelling interest for the government?  The de Osorio decision allows the sons and daughters of permanent residents who waited in line with their parents only to lose their eligibility due to lengthy delays in the immigration process to rejoin their families.  How does the government have an interest in avoiding that happy result.  Immigration law has always been anchored in the concept of family unity?  Prosecutorial discretion, the provisional waiver and, to a lesser extent, DACA, reflect principles of family unity.  By letting the de Osorio decision stand, the administration can once again signal its firm alliance with immigrant families.

As one former President said, on a petition for cert, Mr. President, “Just say no!

My Trip to the White House to Discuss Immigration Reform

21 Nov

In Washington, we have very hot summers without a real beach to beat the heat.  Our winters can be wet, sloppy messes or we can get pounded with multiple snow storms in a city completely unprepared for more than three inches of snow.  Along with the occasional security scare, World Bank protest and Presidential motorcade, life in the Nation’s Capital can be challenging.  However, certain things make up for that.  I can see the Washington Monument from my window, the reflection of the Lincoln Memorial on the pool and the genuine devotion of DC area residents to ideas in the public sphere are some of them.

Last night, I had another opportunity to appreciate Washington life.  I received an invitation to attend a meeting at the Office of Public Engagement of the White House to discuss priorities for the Obama administration in the second term.  Now, I would have crossed continents and oceans for such an opportunity.  Luckily, all I had to do was take a short two-block walk on a lovely night and I was in the West Wing.  Amazingly, the security guards at the White House are far more relaxed and confident than the guards at your standard federal building.  Perhaps that was due to the President being on the other side of the earth.  Relieved that I got to keep my belt on, I entered the White House, with about seven other people– an impressive collection of people.  An ornate, inviting, and comfortable lobby awaits:

In the lobby, a TV blared Chris Matthews talking Benghazi non-stop.  It must be strange to sit all day in a lobby where national news is talking about your co-workers all day long.  I asked the receptionist if that grows tiresome and she told me that the TV is usually tuned to ESPN.  Good call.  We were welcomed into the White House by the lovely Rumana Ahmed, pictured below:

What a great impression of inclusion and American diversity and unity all at once to be welcomed to the White House by Rumana.

Prior to the meeting, I reached out to many Friends of Benach Ragland and asked for advice as to what specifically should be said about immigration.  Together, we came up with a wish list of immigration priorities, which grew to fifteen items.  Briefly, however, they settled on a restoration of judicial review over most immigration decisions, a generous waiver of most grounds of removability, reform of visa numbers to eliminate lengthy backlogs, DREAM Act, Permanent Partners, enhanced protection for minors, and increased ease in admitting highly educated immigrants.  I prepared my elevator speech to tell them what they needed to do on immigration.  However, it is well known military truism that the best strategy evaporates in the first seconds of battle.  The meeting grew in different ways and adaptation was necessary.

Rumana took us upstairs to meet Jon Carson.  We walked through the internal guts of the working White House and I was surprised to see people piled on top of each other, still working hard at 6:30 with the President in Cambodia.  The workspace was decidedly not plush.  Jon Carson is a super affable guy who oozes sincerity.  I learned that he has a son in Pre-K at my kids’ school, but, unfortunately, his son and my Pre-K son are in different classes!  Washington Living, again. 

He told us that the administration wanted to hear about what they can do better in the second term and how can they use the next four years to push progressive ideas.  Jon said that the two main immediate issues were the fiscal cliff and immigration.  He also mentioned the logistics of having to sign up millions of Americans for health insurance coverage.  The results of the election really dawned on me as the administration was planning the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Jon said that the theme of the second term of the Presidency would be “citizenship,” a theme the President highlighted at the Democratic National Convention.  We previously riffed on the meaning of citizenship as immigration lawyers, but, sitting in the White House talking about making policy and administrative moves that would affect the lives of millions of people, the active nature of the concept became clearer.  It is about creating closer ties of community with volunteers, schools, religious institutions and neighbors.  Naturally, therefore, the conversation turned to organizing.  Many observers have attributed the President’s victory to an organized workforce and volunteer system that delivered the vote and the participants in the meeting discussed how the Obama volunteer organization, Organizing for America, can be deployed not only in service of an election but also in service of progressive ideals.

As the discussion turned to immigration, I offered that some of the best organized and effective advocates are the undocumented youth who have created networks that have pushed immigration to the forefront.  Organizations like DreamActivist and United We Dream have regularly outpaced more traditional organizations in calling attention to immigration injustices.  Jon mentioned that only once has the President urged the public to contact Congress and that was during the debt ceiling fight last year.  That call to arms shut down the Capitol Hill switchboard.  I mentioned that undocumented youth are pretty good at shutting down switchboards and that, if the President came out strong for immigration reform, he would have formidable allies ready to work.  I told Jon that there was a lot of mistrust of the administration on immigration and that they needed to see strong Presidential leadership to get behind immigration reform.  Jon replied that the White House was well aware of the mistrust and expressed hope that DACA represented a turning point.

Jon wanted to know if immigration reform could be a rallying point for progressives for the long term.  Everyone in the room seemed to agree that it was.  Someone pointed out that no matter what their political persuasion, business supports immigration reform and immigration could be a way to begin to repair damage between the President and business community.  I offered that the important parts of the core of the President’s support of Latinos, Asians and women could be solidified with immigration reform.  Latinos would be Democrats for a generation with a generous immigration reform program – one that does not offer some simple and easy fixes while tightening enforcement, but one that recognizes that we have overdosed on enforcement and are in need to benefit reform.  More butter, less guns.  In addition, an appeal to women could be made if Michelle Obama met with U.S. citizen children whose parents have been deported.  The staggering human cost of enforcement on steroids needs to be examined.

This was not a meeting for detailed proposals about restoring 212(c) or eliminating the three and ten year bar.  Rather, it was big picture.  The White House is now preoccupied with the fiscal cliff.  The top legislative priority after fiscal cliff is settled is immigration.  I have no doubt that the White House recognizes the need for very strong Presidential leadership on the issue.  I tried to emphasize over and over again that reform cannot be left to the Congress and the President must guide and frame the discussion.  I also have little doubt that the President is starting from a very generous reform program.  Lastly, I can tell you that the White House is prepared to deploy all its resources on this.  This includes mobilizing the extensive volunteer network and the OFA system to build support for immigration reform.  Remember all those emails you got during the campaign asking for $17?  They are not going away.  Instead of asking you for $17, whoever, they will ask you to call Congress to ensure that generous common sense immigration reform is passed.

This is the best opportunity in a generation for sensible and humane immigration laws and the White House appears committed to doing it right.  I know that there are those of you who don’t trust the administration at all to do what is right on immigration.  And I will concede that the air of the White House may have clouded my judgment.  It is very hard to remain cynical and jaded in the White House.  I hope that you can put aside your cynicism and can dare to believe that, in the words of Sam Cooke, a change is gonna come. (watch below!)  What do you have to lose?

Mitt Romney would honor DACA grants, not issue new ones

3 Oct

Thirty four days before the Presidential election, Republican nominee Mitt Romney has expressed a position on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has been in place since August 15.  In an interview with the Denver Post, Romney stated that if he were elected President, “The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased.”   He also said that, although he would honor the work permits and deferred action grants, he would not issue any new ones after his inauguration. 

This is certainly welcome news, but the wording of Romney’s support is worrisome.  First, I can not help but think that there is some sort of dog whistle to the anti-immigrant crowd in there.  By stating that the President is allowing people to “purchase visas,” Romney alludes to a common wingnut belief that the President is simply selling visas to whomever can come up with $465.  A common hallucination against DACA is that there is going to be extensive fraud and we will never know if we are helping the real DREAMers or whether we are giving status to criminals and terrorists.  I wonder if Romney is consciously indulging this fantasy.  Second, Romney views this as entirely transactional.  He makes no mention of the compelling circumstances of DACA applicants.  He views this as something that people have purchased and not as a program meant to shield a deserving class of youth from the fear of removal.  People deserve this benefit, in Romney’s worldview, because they have paid for it, not because of the circumstances of their arrival and their potential to contribute to our society.  By linking the program to a financial transaction, Romney undermines the moral validity of the claim to civil rights for the DREAMers.  Third, it is not a visa. Come on, get it right.  You are running for the Presidency not for the Topeka School Board.  Get your terms and facts straight.  I suppose the error can be easily explained by the fact that Romney’s number one immigration adviser is Kris Kobach, who rarely gets anything right on immigration law.

Romney also said that, at the end of the two years that DACA grants are good for, “Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”  Romney is dangling major immigration reform.  Of course, we have no idea what his plan is or how he plans of getting it through a Congress that has been ceded to the likes of Steve King and Jeff Sessions.  The Republican party, with the help of certain feckless Democrats, has repeatedly stymied even the most sensible immigration reform.  Remember the DREAM Act passed the House and got 55 votes in the senate, which would have been enough had the Republicans not filibustered it.  Romney is attempting to woo Latinos by blaming the President for the failure to pass immigration reform between 2008 and 2010.  This fantasy argues that since the Democrats had a a filibuster-proof majority in both houses during that time (which is not strictly true- there was the Specter conversion and the Kennedy death) and failed to pass immigration reform, that a Republican president and a Republican Congress would do better.  Hogwash.  Republican President Bush could not get the wingnut portion of his party to support immigration reform and, since his first day in office, President Obama faced a Republican minority committed to defeating him and using the filibuster to prevent anything from happening in Congress.  Now, they have the chutzpah to imagine that Republican obstruction had nothing to do with the failure to get immigration reform.  While, we believe that most reasonable people reject this, it is disappointing to see otherwise astute observers of the political scene fall for this.

Finally, Romney also said this: “I actually will propose a piece of legislation which will reform our immigration system to improve legal immigration so people don’t have to hire lawyers to figure out how to get here legally.”  Now, that is hitting below the belt!  Romney wants to put us out of business.  Now, we can understand that the federal government may be getting tired of getting sued by us and losing, but this is personal.  We are small business owners.  Since we embarked on this venture, we have created four new jobs in the country.  We have obtained visas for people that have enabled them to open businesses and hire more workers.  As business owners, shouldn’t we be squarely within Romney’s sights?  Instead, he states that he wants a system that does not require lawyers.  We are all for simplifying the immigration laws and making them work for the United States.  We are tired of telling people that there is nothing we can do for them and their best option to is to save their money and spend it on a new home in their home country.  However, we remain committed to fighting for our clients and we envision that whatever reform Romney proposes will only increase our business as he is likely to cede immigration policy to the Steve Kings, Joe Arpaios and Kris Kobachs.  If that happens, our response is “see you in court.”