THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE - Last Friday, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano, under the direction of President Obama, issued a Memorandum setting forth the exercise of “Prosecutorial Discretion” as it pertains to individuals who came to the United States as children.
The Memorandum would grant access to an estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million illegal immigrants.
The President's directive only defers the deportation of young men and women who should be allowed to stay, but does not secure their futures here.
To qualify, individuals must have come to the United States under the age of sixteen; have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and have been present in the United States on the date of this memorandum; must currently be in school, have graduated from high school, or obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.
Individuals cannot have been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and must not be over the age of thirty.
The three page Memorandum has several components of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM ACT) but does not pave the way to permanent residency or citizenship.
The Dream Act, a bi-partisan bill, first introduced in the Senate in 2001 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would have provided a six year temporary residency for undocumented students who acquired a degree from an institution of higher education or completed at least 2 years, be in a program for a bachelor's degree or higher degree, or have "served in the armed services for at least 2 years.
In September 2007, the DREAM Act was added as an amendment to the 2008 Department of Defense Authorization Bill (S. 2919). In 2009, 2010 and 2011 lawmakers tried unsuccessfully for passage of the bill.
The latest effort was nixed because there was no provision for increased immigration enforcement or any provision that would require every employer to use E-Verify, the government's Internet-based work eligibility verification system.
In view of Congress’ abject failure for decades to address the growing immigration problem, Obama supported the bill as one of his efforts to reform the US immigration system.
Polls suggest that African American support for Obama is waning and that he must capture the Latino vote in order to be reelected. This latest move by the President, coming just months before the election, has been seen as purely political and a usurping of his presidential duty.
In the wake of this directive, twenty Senators signed a letter to President Obama (June 19) questioning his legal authority to grant deferment to illegal immigrants and allow them to receive work authorizations during a time of record unemployment and questioned how the executive action would be implemented and administered, and what the cost to taxpayers would be.
The letter also referred to a statement made by the President in July 2011 where he specifically said, “This notion that somehow I can just change laws unilaterally is just not true. The fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce. And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the Dream Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetuating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true. We live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, then I can sign it.”
Senators demanded to know why his position on the legal authority of the Executive Branch had changed.
The once bi-partisan effort has pitted Senator against Senator. Hatch’s signature appears on this letter, while Durbin praised the President saying, “This action will give these young immigrants their chance to come out of the shadows and be part of the only country they’ve ever called home.”
While this directive is temporary, it gives hope to approximately a million children in pursuit of an education. But simply putting a band-aid on the problem will, ultimately, lead to unintended consequences that will harm both the undocumented student and the American taxpayer.
Every year millions of desirous immigrants gamble and submit their names for the U.S. government's annual visa lottery. The odds of obtaining a green card to move to the United States are exceptionally slim considering that nearly 15 million people applied in 2010 for only 55,000 visas- a number down from 90,000 visas in past years.
For many, the risk of deportation for illegally entering the country pales to the prospect of going hungry.
The American people understand this country was built on immigration and are not without compassion but most do not consider that illegal entry of those who come to this country is often a matter of life and death.
Congress inability to comprehensively reform outdated immigration laws has resulted in over 12 million illegal residents. Laws that have been passed cannot be enforced because agency resources are spread too thin.
Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been actively working with immigrants and activists to craft a bill that would legalize the children of illegal immigrants. But even before the bill has been written, his bi-partisan effort was sharply criticized by Obama, signaling an even deeper divide in Congress on this issue.
Some worry that the immigration issue will again be pushed aside.
The rifts in Washington have bled out to the American people and caused a deep divide in our nation’s hearts. Our elected officials owe a far better performance to the American people than they have gotten so far.
(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter. She is a regular contributor to CityWatch and to the North Valley Reporter. Katharine Russ can be reached at: Katharine.firstname.lastname@example.org ) –cw
Tags: Katharine Russ, Dream Act, President Obama, illegal immigrants, Dick Durban, Oran Hatch, US Congress, US Senate
Vol 10 Issue 50
Pub: June 22, 2012