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Immigration: Waiting for Godot Need Not Be Policy



Shortly after the 2014 elections, President Barak Obama made good on his promise to implement several temporary measures to protect certain categories of immigrants from deportation had Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) been signed into law. He expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Advocates hailed the Executive Action as a step forward while leaders of the Republican Party denounced it as administrative overreach.

Last February 16, a Texas federal judge ordered the Administration to halt implementation of these measures. The Administration complied and announced that they would be put on hold until the Courts rule otherwise. Meanwhile it asked the Judge to stay his own order and allow implementation while the merits of the lawsuits brought on by several State Attorneys General were evaluated and debated.

On March 12, the White House issued the following statement:

The district court in Texas has not ruled on the government’s request for an emergency stay.  As a result, the Department of Justice is now seeking an emergency stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit so that these lawful, commonsense policies can be implemented as soon as possible. 

Whether the Appeals Court rules expeditiously on the request and in favor of the Administration is not at all clear.  Prospects are  however  that even if the Administration eventually prevails, implementation of Executive Action may be delayed for several months and will run into 2016 electioneering.

Most importantly, it appears that both sides are stuck between a rock and hard place, but Republicans seem to excel at being naysayers. While they are lurching toward a confrontation, the immigrants who would benefit from DACA or DAPA, albeit temporarily, remain in limbo, subject to deportation and vilification from  the hard right.

The way forward, says Rick Swartz, founder and former President of the National Immigration Forum, is for the GOP to adopt an affirmative immigration strategy that builds on elements that Democrats and Republicans agree on. These include:

  1. A measure called AGJOBS that benefits agribusiness and farmworkers;
  2. The DREAM Act that sets immigrant youths with years of equity in the US on a path to citizenship;
  3. Backlog reduction measures that significantly reduce the time it takes to immigrate legally to the US once a visa has been approved.
  4. Sensible border strengthening measures that don’t tie legal immigration reform to a border-first strategy, and
  5. Foreign policy initiatives that address the factors pushing illegal emigration to the United States.


Millions could benefit from a bipartisan adoption of these permanent measures, a win-win for all concerned. The time to act however is now, not in 2 to 4 years from now.

This is not the first time that Democrats and Republicans seem to be so far apart on an issue that prospects of a compromise and a real breathrough appear dim.

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