As the legislative session comes to a close with no immigration bill being passed out of Congress, President Obama has begun to turn his attention to what he can personally do to alleviate the pain suffered by the millions of illegal immigrants in the United States. This passages are certainly not all of the options at the president's disposal, but even these alone would significantly improve the lives of millions. Below are the some passages from the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act that could give President Obama legal authority to protect more unauthorized immigrants:
"SEC. 240A. (a) CANCELLATION OF REMOVAL FOR CERTAIN PERMANENT RESIDENTS.-The Attorney General may cancel removal in the case of an alien who is inadmissible or deportable from the United States if the alien-
"(1) has been an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence for not less than 5 years,
"(2) has resided in the United States continuously for 7 years after having been admitted in any status, and
"(3) has not been convicted of any aggravated felony.
SEC. 240A. (b)"(1) IN GENERAL.-The Attorney General may cancel removal in the case of an alien who is inadmissible or deportable from the United States if the alien-
"(A) has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 10 years immediately preceding the date of such application;
(B) has been a person of good moral character during such period;
"(C) has not been convicted of an offense under section 212(a)(2), 237(a)(2), or 237(a)(3); and
"(D) establishes that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to the alien's spouse, parent, or child, who is a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
(b)(B)(v) WAIVER.-The Attorney General has sole discretion to waive clause (i) in the case of an immigrant who is the spouse or son or daughter of a United States citizen or of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, if it is established to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that the refusal of admission to such immigrant alien would result in extreme hardship to the citizen or lawfully resident spouse or parent of such alien. No court shall have jurisdiction to review a decision or action by the Attorney General regarding a waiver under this clause.
The clause discussed above:
(b)(B)(i) IN GENERAL.-Any alien (other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence) who-
"(I) was unlawfully present in the United States for a period of more than 180 days but less than 1 year, voluntarily departed the United States (whether or not pursuant to section 244(e)) prior to the commencement of proceedings under section 235(b)(1) or section 240, and again seeks admission within 3 years of the date of such alien's departure or removal, or
"(II) has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more, and who again seeks admission within 10 years of the date of such alien's departure or removal from the United States,is inadmissible.
Last year it was conventional wisdom that the existential threat posed by the fleeing of Hispanics from the Republican Party would produce moderation on immigration reform and other matters in this Congress. What is remarkable is that the exact opposite has happened. Consider what the House has done or is proposing to do in this Congress:
• Denied legalization and a path to citizenship to 12m undocumented immigrants, despite overwhelming public, Republican Party and right of center constituency support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This will be the second time in the past decade that a GOP House refused to take up a bi-partisan Senate immigration reform bill.
• Passed dozens of bills designed to strip health insurance from millions and even perhaps tens of millions of Hispanics through repeal of the ACA. No group in America is going to be benefit more from the ACA more than the Hispanic community.
• Paul Ryan’s budget framework guarantees dramatic cuts in public school spending, schools Hispanics rely on for their pursuit of the American Dream.
• By passing the “King Amendment” in 2013, the House went on record for stripping legal status and work permits for over 500,000 DACA recipients, and once again making them eligible for immediate deportation. I think this is the first time the Republicans advanced policies that would take existing legal status from a group legally resident and working in the US and advocate their removal from the country.
• The King Amendment would also revoke an Obama Administration policy that specifies that law-abiding undocumented immigrants were no longer priorities for deportation. The King Amendment would restore the threat of imminent deportation to every undocumented immigrant in the country.
• Block efforts to increase the minimum wage, something which would be particularly beneficial to the Hispanic immigrant community.
• End existing legal protections for Central American minors (and only Central American minors) apprehended at the border, denying them internationally negotiated and sanctioned opportunities to apply for asylum and other waivers which would allow them to remain in the US. These rights would remain for European and Asian children, for example.
• Deny funds requested by the Administration for swifter adjudication of the unaccompanied minors at the border, humane detention facilities for the kids here, and a humane repatriation process that would ensure the kids were not sent to violent and potentially lethal circumstances.
These are just the things I came up with this morning. Am sure there are more.
Taken together, it is hard to imagine an agenda more hostile to the interests of Hispanics in the US than what the House GOP has done this Congress. Rather than embracing this critical emerging part of our fast changing country, the House Republicans seem to be doubling down on a politics incredibly hostile to their presence here.
The question is why? What is the motivation here? I offered some thoughts in a major magazine piece on this subject two years ago, but it is a question well worth asking in the months ahead.
And be sure to read my recent MSNBC op-ed, "On Immigration, the House GOP has only one answer: Deport the Kids."
I sent this letter to friends of ours in the immigration reform community last Thursday, July 24th. It had been passed on to several reporters who have called me about it so I decided to make it available to the public.
Right now in the House of Representatives, the most powerful legislative body in the history of the world, there is a serious debate going on about immigration reform or the first time in nine years. With Granger’s proposal, the House Republicans have now proposed or passed measures on border and interior enforcement, the legal status of over 1m undocumented immigrations and are even enormous and consequential changes to another law, Wilberforce, while taking modest steps on the supplemental the President requested. The point is that they have through their own actions expanded this debate into terrain far beyond the supplemental, terrain that looks much more like traditional immigration reform. We also know from news reports that it looks like Boehner will need Democratic votes to pass anything this summer.
Thus, it is my recommendation that far more resources of this community be focused now on the House. We need to push the Democrats to go big and demand that CIR be part of any potential deal with the Republicans, and force a full and robust debate about the need to fix our broken immigration system. Even Jeb Bush took the House Rs to task for not stepping up on CIR in a WSJ oped today. We also know that in the Senate it is unlikely that any supplemental will make it without changes to Wilberforce – thus once again the Rs are blocking progress, and focusing on deporting children.
Simply put the Rs must pay a serious price for this politics and cannot get away without significant damage to their brand. We need to put pressure on them to deal, and to get as much out of this process as we can, perhaps even CIR itself. There is a huge opportunity emerging here, and I hope as many of you will step up and do things like protest outside McConnell and Boehner’s offices the way many have been protesting outside the White House. I am convinced that one of the reasons the Republicans have not moved on CIR this year is that they see Obama and the Democrats getting attacked by their allies. Why mess with that?
Bottom line – we are in the midst in the one of the most important public debates about immigration the US has seen in the last ten years. Time to stand and be counted.
As the House Republicans get ready to release their plan to tackle the Central American migrant crisis, we prepared a few questions members of the media and public should feel free to ask members of the House GOP conference this week:
The Administration is reporting a fairly substantial decline in the migrant flow over the past few weeks. Are you encouraged by this? Why do you think this might be happening? Was it the paid advertising in the three countries and the visit by the Vice President? Recent crackdown on human smugglers on SW border? Something else?
Will you be including the King Amendment, the revocation of prosecutorial discretion and DACA you passed in 2013, in your package to be negotiated with the Senate? Many Republicans including Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Texas State Senator Dan Patrick have argued that DACA was the cause of the migrant crisis. Do you agree?
Will HR15 – the House version of the Senate immigration bill, which includes the House Homeland Security Committee border strategy - be included in your immigration package? The President, the Senate and a majority of the House would like it to be, and Speaker Boehner has repeatedly said he would like to pass it this year. If not, what is the rationale for not passing a major, 9 years in the making, growth producing, deficit reducing, bipartisan immigration reform bill in the middle of a migration crisis? What exactly is the hold up here?
What specifically do you object to in the President’s plan to resolve the crisis? How is your plan better, and more likely to bring a swift and rapid end to the crisis?
Some say this is a border crisis, and more needs to be done to secure the border. Can you elaborate on that, and comment on data showing significant improvements in the security of the border in recent years? (for more on how the border is safer today visit here).
For example, crime is down on the US side of the border, flow of undocumented immigrants into the US is a fraction of what it was in the Clinton and Bush era, the border patrol is far more effective now and there is growing evidence that Obama era deportations of those entering the country illegally has helped strengthen deterrence? What specific data do you have indicating that the border is less safe today due to President’s Obama policies?
Some border sheriffs have said it would be far better to add more local law enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley than to send the National Guard. Do you agree? What exactly will the National Guard do at the border that isn’t already being proposed in the current Administration’s plans? If they are there to “observe,” isn’t this a waste of money? What problem are we solving here?
If we are to expedite the deportation of minors at the border, denying them current legal protections that allow them under certain conditions to remain in the United States, are you worried that some number of these minors might be murdered upon returning home? What responsibility to the US have to ensure their safe repatriation? What does “safe repatriation” mean to you?
Do you have any ideas about what we can do to help the three Central American countries effected by the crisis? How can we help them battle the growing power of the cartels in their country and create greater economic opportunity and citizen security? Do we need something like a Plan Colombia for these three countries, and would you commit $3-5b over the next 10 years to see it through?
This post has been updated as the pace of debate has picked up on Capitol Hill.
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Today, NDN/NPI’s 21st Century Border Project is releasing a new report looking the Central American migrant crisis and reviewing the Obama Administration’s border and immigration enforcement record. The subjects covered in this new report, released in a PDF/Powerpoint format, are at the center of the current debate about how to best fix the US immigration system. You can find the report at the bottom of this post in pdf format.
Among the report’s key findings:
On Border/Immigration Enforcement – The Border is Safer, Immigration System is Better, While Trade With Mexico Is Soaring
Crime is down along the US side of the border. The two largest border cities, El Paso and San Diego, are the two safest large cities in America today.
Out of the five high-traffic migration corridors across the US-Mexico border, four are already at or near the Senate bill’s goal of 90% effectiveness rate.
The flow of undocumented immigrations is way down, at net zero today. Under Pres. Bush the undocumented immigrant population grew by over 3m, an average of almost 400,000 a year. Under Obama there has been no growth in the undocumented immigration population – a sea change from the Clinton and Bush years.
The new prioritization of removals begun by ICE director John Morton in 2011 known has “prosecutorial discretion” has brought significant changes to the immigration/border enforcement system. In 2013, all but 10,336 of those removed from the country were either criminals in the interior of the US or caught entering the country illegally. The result of these policy changes is that the threat of deportation has been lifted from the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US, while simultaneously providing more effective border deterrence - flow has remained low even while the US economy has recovered.
In 2012, the Obama Administration implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allowing over 1m DREAMers, unauthorized immigrants brought to US as youths, to work and study legally in the US.
Trade with Mexico has jumped from $340b in 2009 to about $550b in 2013. Mexico is America’s 3rd largest trading partner, 2nd largest export market. $1.3 billion worth of goods and 1m people cross the 2000 mile US-Mexico border each day.
On The Central American Migrant Crisis - A Review Of The Data, and Thoughts On The Path Forward
On the Central American migrant crisis, the report goes through data on the significant challenge of an overwhelmed immigration court system, and the recent increase in unauthorized arrivals in the Rio Grande Valley. It then offers recommendations of what needs to be done to stem the tide, with a particularly emphasis on passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform - the most powerful tool in the toolbox the United States government has at its disposal today to bring the crisis to a humane and rapid end.
On immigration, the House GOP has only one answer: Deport the kids
A popular immigration reform bill passed the Senate a year ago and still awaits action in the House. Meanwhile, a tragic humanitarian crisis has emerged on our doorstep, demanding a swift and humane response. Yet the House Republicans, who have long stood in the way of sensible action on immigration reform, have fashioned a single response to both: Deport the kids.
Nine years ago, Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy introduced a thoughtful, bipartisan approach to modernizing our immigration system and strengthening border security known as “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” From the beginning, this approach has maintained an unusually broad coalition of support, from evangelical ministers to national labor unions.
Both Democratic and Republican presidents have supported it, and in a time of intense polarization, it has passed the Senate twice with wide bipartisan margins. The current Senate bill is projected to grow the economy by 5% over 20 years, and take almost a trillion dollars off our deficit. Far from being a divisive issue, immigration reform has been something of an oasis in an unusually polarized era.
But not in the House. The only immigration-related bill the House has passed in this Congress has been the “King Amendment,” a provision that would revoke the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – a program that has given 600,000 DREAM-eligible youth temporary legal status, protection from deportation, and permission to work in the United States. Revoking DACA would strip these kids of this legal status and make them available for immediate deportation. In other words: Deport the kids.
In recent months, a crisis has unfolded along our border, providing another powerful reminder of the need to modernize our antiquated immigration system. The administration has proposed a simple, straight-forward set of actions to address the crisis, which require congressional approval. But so far, weeks after Obama outlined his plan, the only idea gaining traction in the House is a change in a Bush-era law that would make it easier to deport the minors being apprehended at the border. Again, the Republican answer is simply this: Deport the kids. (And some extra border security, too.)
The nativist response of the House Republicans to our ongoing immigration challenge is not only an incredible disappointment to all Americans who would benefit from a more modern immigration system, but should be terrifying to the national leaders of the Republican Party. In 2005-2006, the Senate passed a broad bipartisan immigration reform bill. Like today, the House Republican response was to pass a bill calling for more deportations – this time for the deportation of all 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.
The impact on the critical Hispanic vote was dramatic. In the 2006 elections, Hispanics voted 70% to 30% for the Democrats, reversing hard fought gains by President Bush, who had increased the GOP’s Hispanic vote share from 21%to 40%. This 70%-30% ratio in Democrats’ favor is where the Hispanic vote has remained for the last two presidential elections, an outcome which makes it virtually impossible for the GOP to win another national election.
But what the House GOP is doing now is even worse, and potentially far more damaging for its brand with Hispanics. Not only are Republicans responding exactly as they did in 2006 – choosing deportation over bipartisan reform – they are now cruelly fighting to change laws to strip existing legal rights available to both DACA residents and the minors at the border to make them eligible for rapid deportation.In 2005-2006, the House GOP only voted to deport unauthorized immigrants, not those with legal right under current law to be here. This is an escalation.
Add to this the fact that the House GOP is actively supporting a broader policy agenda more hostile to Hispanics than at any time in recent memory. Repealing Obamacare would hit Hispanic families harder than any other group of Americans. Estimates are that as many as 10 million Hispanic families will gain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, a number that is perhaps greater than the number of families who will be effected by the implementation of the Senate immigration bill. The House GOP is also on record for cutting funds for public schools, blocking increases in the minimum wage and making it harder for people to vote – all things which would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters in the US.
For nine years, the anti-immigrant politics practiced by House Republicans have been irresponsible and reckless both for the country and their own political interests. It would be wise for the GOP to seize this new moment and work with the Senate to adopt comprehensive immigration reform and bring the border crisis under control. Deporting kids is not just a ridiculous response to a vexing national problem – it is a response likely to relegate Republicans to a minority party for years to come.
Simon Rosenberg runs NDN/NPI, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. He has worked on passing immigration reform through Congress since its introduction in 2005.
The crisis at the border has already started impacting the broader debate over immigration reform. The most interesting immediate change we are seeing is that the crisis is making it much harder for the House Republicans to maintain their current position that the status quo is preferable to some set of legislative fixes. With GOP House Members starting to introduce bills to address the border crisis, we have stumbled now back into a debate over what Congress can do to fix the broken immigration system. The White House and the Senate have a powerful answer to that question, Senate Bill 744 and other requests which will come from the President this week. What will the GOP response be?
Will the GOPs’ answer to the latest manifestation of a broken immigration system really be limited to just giving the President expedited authority to remove minors at the border? No fixes to the legal immigration system? No legalization process for undocumented immigrants here prior to 12/31/11 as the Senate bill provides? No additional money for more humane detention centers? No additional monies for the immigration courts to help remove the judicial backlog which is contributing to the crisis? No additional money for Central America to help stabilize and improve conditions there?
It is our view that the single most powerful thing Congress can do now to help bring an end to the border migrant crisis is to pass the Senate bill in the House. It will send a loud and clear signal to Central America and Mexico that our Congress, our parties and our President are united in improving our immigration system. It will make clear that those who’ve come or will come after 12/31/11 will not be able to stay. It will help alleviate the growing judicial backlog which has contributed so much to the current crisis. It will give DHS even more powerful tools to make an already improved border even safer. All of these things will be critical to bringing a rapid and humane end to the crisis.
The Obama Administration is taking prudent and smart steps to bring an end to the border migrant crisis, including making clear that passing the Senate bill is a needed and important piece of what is required. But the House GOP cannot continue to cry that the house is on fire and then prevent the Administration from using all the water we have to put the fire out. While the border migrant crisis is clearly a test for the Administration, it is also an important test for the House GOP – and our hope is that they will work with the President in the days to end the migrant crisis while bringing long needed reform to our broader immigration system. Failure to do so means that they will be acting to extend the crisis, worsen human suffering, slow our economic recovery, add to the deficit and strengthen the cartels profiting from the increased human trafficking from Central America. America deserves better than that.
Update: See our recent essay, "What Congress Can Do To Help With the Central American Migrant Crisis;" and this one from earlier this year, "GOP Attacks on Obama's Immigration Enoforcement Record Are Ridiculous."
Next Tuesday, July 15th, please join NDN/NPI for a DC based event and webinar on the border migrant crisis and the Obama Administration’s border and enforcement record. The presentation will showcase a newly updated data-driven version of our influential powerpoint on the border and immigration enforcement that has been widely seen across the country over the past year or so. The presentation will be helpful to anyone wanting to get a better understanding of these complicated and fast-changing issues. Both are free and open to the public.
Noon - 130 pm EST, Luncheon Presentation at NDN - Lunch will be provided. You can reserve your spot here, and feel free to invite others who might interested.
4 - 5 pm EST, Webinar - If you can't make the luncheon, we will be hosting a Webinar later that afternoon. To attend, register here.
For the Webinar presentation, please leave a few moments for the software to install before the event begins. Webinar can be used on either a Mac or PC. If you have any issues, please contact email@example.com.
NDN is located at 729 15th Street, NW, 1st Floor. We look forward to seeing you next week, and feel free to invite others you think might be interested.