New Orlando Sentinel Op-Ed from Frank Sharry Makes Case for Big Executive Action
Today, in the Orlando Sentinel’s “The Front Burner,” America’s Voice’s Executive Director, Frank Sharry, makes the case for why big executive action from the President that protects millions is good policy, sound legally and highly important for the future of this country.
You can view Sharry’s full, op-ed, “America Shouldn’t Be Stuck with a Broken System,” online here or below:
Immigration is an issue that tends to generate more heat than light. But there are a few things that most Americans agree on. First, our current immigration system is badly broken. Second, there is no way the government is going to round up and deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in America. And third, it’s time for somebody to do something about it.
Of course, the best way to overhaul our immigration system is for Congress to enact reform legislation. Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill with the help of both Florida senators. The legislation combines border security, a crackdown on illegal hiring, improvements to the legal immigration system and a way for immigrantssettled in America to come forward, register with the government and eventually earn citizenship if they pass background checks, work hard, pay taxes and study English. Such a policy enjoys the support of Florida voters by more than a 3-1margin, according to a 2013 survey from Public Policy Polling.
Unfortunately, House Republicans stopped this best chance in a generation to fix our broken immigration system. Even though a majority of the House would likely vote in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, Republican leadership refused to even bring up such a bill for a vote.
Should we give up? No. Maintaining the status quo is the worst of all options. It leaves millions outside the protection of our laws. It encourages unscrupulous employers to take advantage of immigrant workers, undercut honest competitors and drive down the wages and working conditions of all workers. It rips apart families who are Americans in all but paperwork.
The time has come for the president to take action. He can’t rewrite immigration law. Only Congress can do that. But the president and his Department of Homeland Security can do what every law-enforcement agency in the country does: set priorities, target resources and implement immigration law to use limited resources totarget bad actors rather than ordinary immigrants with deep roots in America.
That’s what the president did in 2012 when he announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows young immigrants who arrived before June 2007 to apply for a stay of deportation and work authorization. DACA has benefited nearly 600,000 people nationally, including nearly 30,000 in Florida, who have used the program tosecure drivers licenses, decent jobs and college educations.
Going forward, the President should expand DACA so millions of other hardworking immigrants with strong ties to America come forward, register with the government, work legally and pay their full and fair share of taxes.
Is such a move constitutional? Without a doubt. Many legal experts agree that the president has vast discretion in implementing immigration policy. And since Congress has neither passed immigration reform nor given the administration enough money to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, it’s left to the executive branch to set priorities. Finally, the Supreme Court has consistently found that as long as government agencies spend their budgets and don’t engage in discrimination, their discretion is absolute.
Is such a move good policy? Definitely. Staying the deportation of low-priority immigrants and giving them work permits on a temporary, revocable basis are well-established practices in immigration enforcement. In Florida alone, some 500,000 immigrants could benefit. And a program to register undocumented immigrants and turn them into documented taxpayers will improve the economy and workplace conditions for workers and employers alike.
Mr. President, the only radical option on the table is to maintain the status quo. Use your existing authority to get the ball rolling. And then it will be up to the rest of us to elect a Congress that will finish the job, and pass immigration reform that fixes our broken system once and for all.