With Reform Stuck in the House, Pressure Increases on the President

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With the clock ticking on immigration reform in this Congress, House Republicans show no sign of bringing immigration reform legislation to a vote. Advocates, while still pushing House leaders to act, have begun to turn their attention to the president.

Since his State of the Union Address, the president has repeatedly promised to use his executive authority to do what he can on any number of issues that remain stalled because of congressional inaction. Immigration advocates—and some members of Congress—are urging him to use his executive authority to mitigate the suffering endured by families due to the broken immigration system.

President Obama has, up to now, maintained that he has limited authority to stop deportations. However, on March 14, the president met with reform advocates and told them he has ordered a review, in search of a more “humane” deportation policy.  Possible changes being considered, according to press reports, include the easing or stopping the deportations of persons who have no criminal convictions other than immigration violations and a limitation on immigration detainers. Experts—including former ICE Acting Director John Sandweg—have proposed other shifts in policy that would help ease the burden on families.

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President’s Budget Proposes to Engage Private Sector in Citizenship Preparation

On March 4, President Obama released his proposed budget to fund the government for the fiscal year 2015, which begins on October 1, 2014. Included in the budget are two naturalization-related requests, both of which, if approved by Congress, promise to increase the capacity of organizations nationwide to help eligible immigrants become citizens.

The first is a request we’ve seen since early in the Obama Administration: a request for funding for a citizenship and integration grant program. To quote from the budget document:

“The Citizenship and Integration Grant Program is the sole Federal program that supports the civic integration of lawful immigrants through citizenship preparation programs.”

Grants are awarded to immigrant service organizations that provide citizenship preparation classes, assist immigrants with their naturalization applications, or provide training to organizations to increase their capacity to prepare immigrants for citizenship. (You can see a list of the most recent grantees here.)

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