Obama Considering Executive Action on Immigration

August 22, 2014

With chances of comprehensive immigration reform seemingly dead, President Obama has been threatening to take executive action to address some of the many shortcomings of our current immigration system. While early reports indicated that the Administration was considering small but needed proposals (such as extending work authorization rights to some H-4 visa holders, or marginally expanding the deferred action program) recent reports indicate the President is considering much broader actions. Possibilities being discussed include:

Massive expansion of the deferred action program 

In 2012, the Obama Administration – tired of inaction from Congress on the DREAM Act- began accepting applicants for its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (known as DACA). For those who qualified, this program provides temporary legal status to stay and work in the U.S.

This program was initially defined to apply to fewer than 1 Million of the 11+ Million undocumented immigrants estimated to be residing in the U.S. As reported by the Washington Post, the Obama Administration is thinking about expanding DACA to include ” law-abiding undocumented immigrants who are closely related to U.S. citizens or those who have lived in the country a certain number of years — a population that advocates say could reach as high as 5 million.”

Freeing up more green cards

Today, some employment-based permanent residence applicants are waiting over 10 years for a green card, while some family-based applicants have to wait up to 25 years. This is due to numerical restrictions placed on the number of green cards available each year, plus additional restrictions based on country-of-origin. Businesses who sponsor foreign national employees for permanent residence have been lobbying to shorten these wait times, and the administration seems eager to help. From the Wall Street Journal:

“One proposal would have the administration exclude dependents from the numerical cap on employment-based green cards, which is now 140,000 a year. The change could, in effect, double the number of green cards available.

Under current law, if a worker receives a green card, his or her spouse may also qualify, but both people are counted under the 140,000 annual cap

A second proposal would “recapture” unused employment green cards from previous years, which could produce more than 200,000 new green cards, according to high-tech lobbyists and a document outlining proposals from Compete America, a coalition of high-tech companies.”

Legislative comprehensive immigration reform should remain a goal, but these steps would achieve many of those same outcomes – and without the need to compromise on core values or dramatically increase militarization on the borders.

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