The President To Push for Immigration Reform – Changes to Immigration Law Expected

Are changes coming to immigration law or enforcement? Sure. But who knows what that means.

Changes to immigration law and/or enforcement are likely to be made in the coming months. The two big questions, however, are whether those changes will come from Congress or the President and how big exactly will those changes be?

Yesterday, May 13, 2014, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson met with over 40 law enforcement officials to discuss the nation’s immigration system and its effect on law enforcement around the country. In remarks to the press following the meeting, President Obama called on the House of Representatives\House to “get the ball rolling” on immigration reform, warning “the closer we get to midterm elections, the harder it is to get things done around here . . . so we’ve got maybe a window of two, three months.”

The Senate passed the sweeping immigration reform bill S. 744, which would substantially beef up security at the southern border, increase the number of employment visas for high-tech workers, and provide a pathway to citizenship for most of the undocumented population, among other things. However, the push for new immigration legislation has stalled in the House of Representatives, due largely to the objections of conservative Republicans. Despite the House Republican leadership’s efforts to “get the ball rolling”—including the publication of Republicans’ “Standards for Immigration Reform” in January 2014, which included a provision to allow undocumented immigrants to “live legally” in the U.S.—no immigration bill has been offered to the House floor for a vote. The President’s commentsyesterday are the latest indication that President Obama will take some action on immigration law if Congress is unable to pass new legislation.

President Obama famously introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program in June 2012, which deferred removal proceedings and provided work permits to many undocumented young people. The Obama administration has also made it easier for mixed-status families to stay together through the implementation of the Provisional Waiver programand Parole-In-Place for Military Families. Additionally, through the issuance of a series of policy memoranda over the past couple years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has expanded the use of Prosecutorial Discretion and reduced the amount of ICE detainersissued for aliens charged with minor crimes.

Most recently, President Obama directed the new Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to re-evaluate the administration’s handling of removal proceedings, and pundits expect Secretary Johnson to recommend potentially significant changes at the conclusion of his review. Could deferred action be extended to parents of DACA youth? Could ICE treat immigration violators without criminal records with more leniency? The nature and scope of changes are unknown, but the chance of something happening to US immigration law seems more and more like a sure thing. Alex Muntean is an Immigration Lawyer providing immigration advice and representation.

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