With prospects for immigration reform continually waxing and waning almost weekly, it is time to take decisive action to ease the pain of millions waiting for our leaders to pass immigration reform. While Congress continues to debate internally whether and how it will take up this important issue, several Members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have called on the President to exercise greater discretion and halt deportations until the law can be fixed. Now is the time to hit the pause button on record-level deportations.
Make no mistake, our immigration law is a difficult machine. Seemingly well-intentioned, laws like the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (“IIRAIRA”) have severely complicated individual cases, frequently making it impossible for deserving immigrants to legalize their status. All too frequently I hear the misconceptions of immigration law restated as facts. The most common misconception I find is that spouses of American citizens automatically get their green card. One unfortunate truth, for example, is that laws like IIRAIRA can impose permanent bars to spouses of United States citizens for unlawful reentry to the United States after traveling to their home country to attend to sick or dying parents.
On December 5, 2013, 29 Members of Congress drafted a letter, calling on the White House to stop deportations in the more sympathetic cases. Those Members asked that deferred action be granted to those that would potentially benefit from proposed legislation. Their call joins those of 543 faith-based organizations, civil rights groups, legal associations, and labor organizations, to cease the forced expulsion of non-criminal immigrants who would benefit from immigration reform. Specifically calling for the expansion of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to include potential beneficiaries of immigration reform, those Members of Congress have labeled the obstruction to immigration reform as “senseless opposition that neither reflects the public will, nor the moral responsibility we hold.”
Recently, House Minority Leader Pelosi joined the conversation, urging President Obama to increase the use of discretion in the deportation process. She is urging the White House to enact policy to suspend deportations for parents of DREAMers who have already received temporary relief under the DACA program. She believes the government can and should halt the deportation of those whose only fault is being here without status.
Our government has a real opportunity to create an effective humanitarian program to temporarily remove the threat of deportation from individuals’ lives. While most are in agreement that serious criminals should be treated differently, enacting immediate relief by expanding agency discretion while Congress continues to debate an overhaul of the immigration system is a humane temporary solution. Too often our impossible immigration laws break up hardworking families and create additional hardship to those born within our borders. DACA has brought this conversation to the forefront, allowing some of those living in the shadows to come out and tell their stories. It has provided educational opportunities to our deserving youth and it has provided dignity to hardworking students trying to pursue the American dream.
Hitting the pause button on deportation for America’s undocumented youth has been a positive step forward. Now is the time to hit the pause button for more of America’s hardworking immigrants until Congress can achieve an appropriate solution that is humane, ensures public safety and national security, and keep families united.
Written by Bryon M. Large, Sr., AILA Colorado Chapter Chair