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Editorial Boards Weigh in on Next Steps for Obama on Immigration Reform

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el paso obamaYou may recall that earlier this month, a prominent group of immigration attorneys wrote a memo detailing the President’s executive authority on immigration-related matters. To be blunt, the President’s hands aren’t tied.

In the wake of the President’s speech on immigration, editorial boards at major newspapers are calling on the President to use that executive authority. We agree.

Los Angeles Times titled its editorial, “Get moving on immigration reform:

If anything at all is to happen on this politically thorny issue, the president will have to shape the debate by using the administrative powers of his office.

He can begin by instructing the Department of Homeland Security to use prosecutorial discretion when deciding which immigrants will be hauled into the overburdened immigration court system. Cases involving immigrants who have been convicted of violent crimes should take priority over those with no criminal convictions. And the administration should help the undocumented spouses and relatives of U.S. citizens by allowing those who have applied for green cards to remain in the U.S. while their cases are reviewed.

The Washington Post’s editorial, “What Mr. Obama can do to further immigration reform,” noted this:

As Hispanic lawmakers and advocate groups have stressed, Mr. Obama could, on his own authority, order steps that do not require legislation. One such measure would be to curtail or suspend the deportation of undocumented young students who were brought to the United States as children — whose immigration status might be legalized in the future. Mr. Obama has refused to do that, saying the administration should not bypass Congress on immigration policy.

Even without a top-to-bottom legislative package, the administration could push for discrete measures for which an overwhelming economic argument can be made. For instance, why not expand the quota of visas available to immigrants who receive PhDs from American universities in science, math and engineering? What sense does it make to educate such promising students, then force them to return to their home countries, where many will take jobs competing against American companies?

Mr. Obama may be stymied by the Republicans in delivering a full revamping of immigration policy. But there is still work that could be done — and not just in rallying Hispanics to vote against Republicans in 2012.