Two Weeks To The Election: Major Changes in Immigration Law To Come?

Posted on 10/26/12

Obama or Romney? The winner of the upcoming presidential election will have a huge impact on immigration law and policy in the United States. The impetus for this comment comes from the recent reported comments of President Barack Obama here regarding Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013. Since June of 2011, the President has made incremental changes to the policy and practices of the Department of Homeland Security. During the same time, Congress has done absolutely nothing to address the inequities, unfairness and misguided application of immigration laws and enforcement in our country. Businesses cannot hire who they want to. Families have seen fathers and mothers deported for old orders of deportation that occurred long ago. Border states have taken matters into their own hands to pass and attempt to enforce strict and harsh local immigration ordinances. People of both political parties would agree that the current system of immigration laws and enforcement is in need of reform.

While the President pledges immigration reform next year, the reality is that Congress must pass immigration laws. The president has made small changes through executive order. The president ordered the Department of Homeland Security to adopt a policy of “prosecutorial discretion,” whereby the agency would redirect its resources to the cases of immigrants with criminal convictions. The president in June of 2012 created, through Executive Order, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” This new directive allows for young students who entered the United States with their parents as young children, who have grown up and lived in the United States for a number of years and have gone to school here, to apply for deferred action and receive employment authorization. This is a temporary measure, but one that has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of young immigrants in the U.S. already. Still, according to the President, these changes were necessary due to the chronic inaction of the Congress on the issue of Immigration Reform.

Governor Romney too has pledged to seek Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Romney would seek to implement a temporary work visa program and attract highly skilled immigrants from other countries. Under this plan, it is likely that prosecutorial discretion would vanish under a Romney Administration. It is unclear what would happen to students who received deferred action at this time.

Immigration Advocates should pay attention to the shape of Congress after this election. Congressional elections are just as important as the election for president in terms of the likelihood of good comprehensive reform next year. When 2013 is here, we must also watch to see if there are people on both sides of the issue in Congress who will finally be willing to work together to provide a long-term fix to our immigration system.

What do you think? I would love to read your comments.