There has been a letter from 22 senators, a legal memo written by the American Immigration Counsil, and a network of immigration advocates all revealing that Obama’s hands aren’t tied on immigration. Add to that list this New York Times editorial published in Saturday’s paper noting that President Obama, who often talks about immigration but takes very little action, can actually use his executive powers to improve the immigration situation for millions of undocumented immigrants who currently live here.
Obama, who has been deporting more immigrants than President Bush, has been saying that he doesn’t have the authority and “can’t bypass Congress.” He’s even courted a few “influential Hispanics” in the process, who’ve repeated that misleading talking point.
The Times piece notes that besides pushing back on enforcement measure like E-verify and states that have adopted Arizona-like anti-immigration bills, the President can grant administrative relief to those eligible for the DREAM Act (benefiting undocumented youth) and the Power Act (benefiting undocumented workers).
From the New York Times:
The president can push much harder against the noxious anti-immigrant laws proliferating in the national free-for-all. The administration sued to stop Arizona’s radical scheme. But Utah, Alabama, Indiana and Georgia are trying to do the same thing.
He can grant relief from deportation to young people who would have qualified for the Dream Act, a filibustered bill that grants legal status to the innocent undocumented who enter college or the military. He can do the same for workers who would qualify for the Power Act, a stalled bill that seeks to prevent employers from using the threat of deportation and immigration raids to retaliate against employees who press for their rights on the job.
He can resist Republican lawmakers who want mandatory nationwide use of E-Verify, a flawed hiring database, which would likely lead to thousands of Americans losing their job because of data errors. A December report by the Government Accountability Office warned that E-Verify is plagued by inaccurate records and vulnerable to identity theft and employer fraud.
He can order the citizenship agency to keep families intact by making it easier for illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens to fix their status without having to leave the country. Many already qualify for green cards but are afraid to risk getting stuck abroad under too-strict laws that could bar their re-entry.
He can bolster the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and give the Department of Labor more tools to strengthen protections for all workers and the authority to combat labor trafficking. Such authority now lies with Homeland Security, which means many immigrants are too frightened to speak up when their rights are abused.
Obama might get half a thumbs-up for recognizing that it’s through immigration that he’ll recapture the Hispanic vote, but his eloquent speeches on the issue won’t do it alone – especially as his administration continues to split families apart, tout deportation numbers, and force harmful DHS/ICE programs that push undocumented immigrants further underground.