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.
Continue reading With Reform Stuck in the House, Pressure Increases on the President
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.)
Continue reading President’s Budget Proposes to Engage Private Sector in Citizenship Preparation
If the immigration reform debate was an amusement ride, it would be a roller coaster. At the end of last month, House Republican leaders released a set of “standards” that, they said, would guide their work on immigration reform in this Congress. A few days later, on February 6, House Speaker John Boehner went before the press to say that,
“…there’s widespread doubt about whether [the Obama administration] can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”
Mr. Boehner appeared to be dampening hopes he had raised the week before that the House would act on immigration reform. This latest news won’t be the end of the immigration reform ride in this Congress.
Continue reading Ups and Downs: Republican Leaders Backing Off from Immigration Reform
At a retreat of the Republican Conference at the end of January, Republican leaders released a set of “standards” for immigration reform. The standards acknowledge that the immigration system must be fixed, and Republicans will devise solutions through a “step-by-step” process. Their vision includes putting border security and interior enforcement first, implementing an entry-exit visa tracking system, a universal electronic employment verification system, reforms to the legal immigration system that include more visas for skilled workers and a workable temporary worker program, and some process for allowing the undocumented to live in the country legally (including legal residency and citizenship for young people brought to the country as children).
The standards leave much to interpretation. For example, regarding border security, the standards say, “[w]e must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure.” What does that verification look like? The standards say “[t]here will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws….” Does this preclude citizenship for the undocumented?
All of this will become concrete once legislation is drafted in the coming months. For the most part, advocates are cautiously optimistic—encouraged that Republican leaders are acknowledging the need for reform, but needing to see how these standards are interpreted in legislation.
Continue reading House Republicans Get Ready to Move on Immigration Reform