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Executive Actions: The Wait and The Cynicism

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Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor to America’s Voice. Please note the following column was translated from Spanish to English and is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper credit. This column is available in Spanish here. 

While the immigration executive actions announced by President Barack Obama in November 2014 follow a torturous path through the court system, the undocumented population that would have benefitted from them are on their own rough road of uncertainty.

The Justice Department is deciding the best strategy to guarantee that the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program can be implemented before the end of Obama’s presidency.

Consideration of the lawsuit against the executive actions, brought by 26 states, 24 governed by Republicans, means that the legal resolution may take longer.

The federal government seems to be betting on waiting for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the arguments and issue a verdict on the merits or the legality of the claim, and if the ruling is unfavorable, to appeal it to the Supreme Court.  The next hearing is scheduled for July 10th.

If the government appeals an adverse ruling to the Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court will break for the summer recess at the end of June and return the first Monday in October, and in the fall will decide which cases it will hear. So, if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it won’t issue a decision until June 2016, in the midst of the presidential election season.

This weekend, the New York Times editorialized that the President has an obligation to keep his promise “to do all he can to make the immigration system more humane.”

The editorial lists several points that pro-immigrant and pro-immigration reform groups have proposed and that have now become more urgent since the executive actions will not be immediately implemented. Among others, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must ensure that the memorandum on deportation priorities, which outlined a policy designed to focus on real criminals, is effectively applied to prevent the plague of family separation, and to end the imprisonment of mothers and children that is feeding the lucrative business of detention centers. The government should also zealously protect the 2012 DACA program that has brought many benefits to young undocumented immigrants and their families.

Many Republicans have said that Obama should have pushed for immigration reform when he had a Democratic Congress between January 2009 and January 2011. On this we agree.

But it’s unbelievable that they argue that Obama should have continued to push for comprehensive immigration reform through legislation instead of issuing executive orders.

People, in 2013 the Senate approved a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives, where Republican leadership let the clock run out even though Democrats offered many concessions and even agreed to consider piecemeal legislation. Despite this, 2013 and 2014 passed without action because Republicans allowed their anti-immigrant wing to dictate the agenda.

The executive actions introduced in 2014 were a response to the fact that House Republicans refused to legislate. It is cynical to say that the executive actions “poisoned” the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform when in reality the Republican leadership wasn’t willing to push for the bill they had right in front of them, which could have been amended and approved.

Now the Republicans control Congress. Have they proposed any immigration reform plan that doesn’t consist solely of militarizing the border?

The wait continues for the implementation of the President’s executive actions and for Republicans to gain the political will to work together for the only permanent solution: comprehensive immigration reform.