President vows to act alone on immigration reform

Pres. Obama has announced that he will use his executive power to enact immigration reform, leading to mixed reaction from immigration advocates.

Obama says he would prefer legislation, but will use his Executive Power

In light of the recent surge of Central American youths flooding the southern border, President Obama has vowed to use his executive authority to deal with the highly contentious issue of immigration reform, according to the New Jersey Herald. While some reform advocates praised the move, concerns have also been raised that the use of executive power could lead to an increase in deportations and detentions.

Executive power limited

Pres. Obama has said on more than one occasion that while he would prefer to see comprehensive immigration reform enacted through Congress, he will use his executive power, if necessary, to pass whatever reforms he can to deal with the broken system. The impetus behind the President's bold pronouncement seems to be fueled, in part, by Republican congressional leaders deliberately tabling discussion of pursuing immigration legislation this session.

The President has tasked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder with presenting him with a list of options by summer's end. While the President does have certain authority to pass unilateral executive actions regarding immigration, the problem is that those actions would only remain in effect for as long as he is President. Legislation passed by Congress, on the other hand, would be of a more permanent nature. Among some of the options that legal minds are theorizing might be suggested are an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") to adult family members, or an widening the class of people who would eligible for Parole in Place ("PIP"). Either of these things, or something along those lines, would bring tremendous relief to the thousands, if not millions, of undocumented aliens currently present in the United States.

Reaction mixed

Reaction to the President's announcement among immigration reform advocates was mixed. There have been indications that the President may use his executive authority to increase deportations and detentions of individuals attempting to sneak along the southern border. According to The Record, a coalition of labor, business, religious and Hispanic group leaders that met with the President raised concerns about some of the actions that may be taken against "illegal" immigrants. Deportations have recently reached record highs, and the President has now ordered that resources be redirected from the interior to the southern border to address the growing crisis. Many of the children involved in the current surge say they are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries. Advocates say it would be unconscionable to send such children back to a potentially dangerous environment without due process of the law, and that they need to be dealt with compassionately.

Dealing with a deportation threat

While the debate about immigration reform goes on, for the many immigrants who are already here and facing the prospect of deportation, that debate has a very real impact on their lives. The immigration laws and regulations can be extraordinarily complex, and despite the prospect of potential relief, not everyone will necessarily qualify. Moreover, if any executive action or even legislation is passed, there will presumably be deadlines and very specific eligibility criteria. For those who are potentially affected, it is especially important to seek an honest, unbiased evaluation of what their immigration situation is so that they can prepare and plan accordingly for the future.

Keywords: immigration, deportation, Obama, reform