By Wellington C. Ramos
When President Barack Obama first got elected he said that one of his top priority items would be immigration reform. The millions of people who have paid their immigration fees to be processed for them to obtain their permanent residencies, citizenships and those people who have been living for years in the United States without any documentation were delighted to hear this announcement.
The first approach that the president recommended was a comprehensive Immigration package, which is needed to reform the immigration department, increase border patrols, reduce the backlogs, speed up the trials of people pending deportation hearings, process applicants’ permanent residencies and citizenship applications, grant amnesty to children and parents through the Dream Act who have been living in this country for a period of years that will give them a pathway to citizenship and start fresh again. This is providing that these children who are eligible are in school, graduated from school and did not commit certain crimes in the United States that would disqualify them from these benefits.
Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
This initiative is being opposed by most Republicans and many of them have done everything in their capacity to block these reform measures. Some of them have threatened to impeach the president if he signs this executive order, bring a case against him in the US Supreme Court for abusing his executive authority or defund allocations for the Department of Homeland Security to stop the processing of eligible candidates. About a year ago the Democrat-controlled Senate tabled the Comprehensive Immigration Bill and it passed that chamber. This Bill was never brought to the floor of the House of Representatives, which is currently under the control of the Republicans. By the ending of this year 2014, this Bill passed by the Democrats will become insignificant because the Republicans will now control the Senate and the House of Representatives and they are against any type of reform.
They keep saying that they are in favor of comprehensive immigration reform but have yet to table a Bill in the House of Representatives in the last two years. This will convince the American people that they mean what they are saying they are going to do. In the year 2012, the president of the United States signed an executive order titled Deferred Action to stop the deportation of children 16 years and younger who have been living in the United States without documentation up until 2007. Under this plan all these children will not be deported from the United States and will be eligible to receive their social security cards, employment authorization cards, state identification cards, drivers’ licenses, financial aid, travel documents and other benefits. Pew Research estimates that about 1.7 million people may be eligible for this benefit. Since the program started it is estimated that, as of 2014, about 581,000 children have already benefitted from this plan and 24,000 were denied.
Second Deferred Action by the President
In November 2014, President Barack Obama announced a second Deferred Action Plan because he said the Republicans have failed to act on immigration reform when one is needed urgently. Under this new plan, people 31 years of age and under, who entered the United States before the year 2010 and have lived in this country for five or more years will be eligible for the same benefits like the people under the previous Deferred Action Plan. Pew Research estimates that this will increase the eligible people by another 330,000.
Like the first Deferred Action Plan that was announced by the president, the members of the Republican Party are angry with the president. Again there are calls for impeachment, court action against him and the cutting off of funding to the Department of Homeland Security. Upon examining this second plan these are the people that will benefit from it:
1. Undocumented immigrants who were born on or before June 15, 1981 and have been living in the United States consistently since January 1, 2010. Under the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), these migrants will be allowed employment authorization for three years and will be allowed temporary travel documents.
2. Undocumented persons who gave birth to a child or children in the United States on or before November 20, 2014, and have been living in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010. They will be given a temporary reprieve under this order that will allow them to get a work permit and travel documents. If they have a child who is a permanent resident, then they will also be eligible under the president’s latest waiver.
3. If you are the undocumented son or daughter of a US citizen or the spouse or sons or daughters of lawful permanent residents who have resided unlawfully in the United States for at least 180 days, you will also be eligible for a visa to get a temporary reprieve (TR) under this executive action.
4. Foreign Investors researchers, skilled foreign workers will also benefit from the president’s order. According to the USCIS, parole on a case by case basis will be granted to eligible investors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver but who have been awarded substantial US investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting edge research.”
Work authorizations will be granted to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent residency or green card holder status. No other undocumented immigrants will be able to benefit at this time unless they have a relative to petition for them or they get married to a United States citizen or permanent resident. Many people wanted the president to go further and grant all these people full permanent residency status. Yet, some people believe that this is better than nothing at all.
Will the Republican Party challenge the president of the United States for these actions that he took recently? I am of the opinion that the Republicans may challenge the president but will fail in all their efforts to stop this initiative due to the following reasons:
1. Past presidents have always used executive orders to initiate immigration policy in the past and this has become a precedent in American administrative law.
2. The Republican Party has brought legal action against the president for other immigration policies in the past and they lost the case in the US Supreme Court. The state of Arizona attempted to pass immigration laws some years ago and the Supreme Court voided their laws. Cases ruled on by the Supreme Court fall under the term judicial review and they are laws of the land.
3. Government shutdown is one of the things the Republican Party is also talking about but they did it twice before and the American people retaliated by voting them out of power. Many of the Republican leaders are warning their fellow Republicans not to ever do that again. The presidential elections, congressional and other elections will be coming up in 2016 and the Republicans want to gain more power then.
4. The talk of impeachment has been mentioned from the time this president came to office. Especially, after he passed the first Deferred Action. The Republicans can frame the articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives for “excessive use of power” or “abuse of executive authority” because they have the votes. However, they will have to go to the US Senate to remove the president from office after they Impeach him and they do not have a two-thirds majority of votes in the Senate.
There are some members of the Republican Party who will be more than willing to impeach this president just to embarrass him or smear his record. This current Congress has only two more weeks of work left and they are getting ready to go home for their Christmas vacation. They have some important monetary matters to take care of before they leave the capital. Otherwise, the president can use his executive authority to get the federal marshals to let them remain in Washington DC and take care of the people’s business before they go home on their Christmas vacation.
It is estimated that the people who are eligible for these benefits will not be able to file their papers until February of next year when the forms and fees are made available. I strongly advise them to start saving their money and stay out of trouble with the law until then. All persons who file any immigration document must be fingerprinted and have their pictures taken. If any adverse information is detected during the processing, it can make that person ineligible for these benefits under the Deferred Action Plan (DAP). Let us wait and see if the new Republican Congress will pass any immigration reform legislation when they come to Washington DC next year.