According to an article on washingtonpost.com: “The Obama administration is moving to release thousands of illegal immigrants detained at facilities across the country if the immigrants have a potential path to legal residency.”
The Obama administration is finally putting its money where it’s mouth is in trying to fix our broken immigration system while keeping the President’s campaign promise to offer legalization to millions of undocumented workers who meet stringent criteria. Some would argue that this is too little too late while others believe that the administration is on the right path. By taking step such as: (1) suing the State of Arizona to avoid a mishmash of state immigration laws, (2) dedicating funds to help secure the border and, (3) halting immigration proceedings and releasing from detention those who may be eligible to adjust, the administration is setting the groundwork for what could be a renewed attempt to pass immigration reform after the November elections.
Even if the Republican party takes control of Congress, if the administration uses Policy Memoranda and other tools at its disposal to create a better immigration system without congress passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform, it’s far better than nothing. Most immigration practitioners would agree that the interpretation of the law by agencies is more important than the law itself. Perhaps the congress will come together soon after the elections to pass CIR before Washington gets all riled up about the 2012 elections (one can always dream!).
During the final years of the Bush administration, many immigration laws were interpreted to limit benefits to immigrants as much as possible. Arguably, the anti-immigration positions have started to shift with the exception of heavy-handedness by the USCIS and the DOL with issues concerning jobs for Americans. In particular, the USCIS recently raised fees substantially for certain H-1B employers and in audits the DOL has begun asking for proof of how employers contacted eligible applicants for positions recruited for under the PERM Labor Certification Program. These steps are understandable given the country’s high unemployment rate.
The far right will decry any prioritizing of immigration enforcement as “back-door amnesty”. However, right-winged candidates who see red on the issue of undocumented aliens historically lose their elections or primaries. On the other hand, appearing lax on enforcement is not the key to winning votes. Immigration is a tricky issue as it is not a priority for most voters and politically, it is generally best left untouched around election time.