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What Can and Should President Obama do about Immigration without Congress?

President Obama has said that if Congress failed to act to pass comprehensive immigration reform before the August Summer recess, he would be forced to take action on the matter. Many legal scholars and activists have chimed in on what they think the President should do and what they think he legally could do unilaterally about immigration.

The President has provide mixed messages over the years about what he wants to do compared to what he thinks he can legally do. The President has been quite clear that he wants to sign the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in the summer of 2013. This bill would immediately give millions of immigrants eligibility for lawful status. This bill would provide millions with a pathway to a green card (lawful permanent residence) and a pathway to citizenship.

Nothing the President has talked about, and nothing argued for by immigration activists can do what Congress can do through comprehensive immigration reform. What the President is currently contemplating is to expand deferred action to a much larger group of immigrants currently without status. The President first provided deferred action through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), back in 2012, to a limited number of young immigrants who met certain criteria. Deferred action is not a legal status like having a green card, or having a work or student visa. Deferred action is simply a temporary, revocable promise that the government will not seek to remove you, and will allow you to work, so long as you don’t break certain rules.

What the President is currently contemplating is to give deferred action to the parents of the people who already have DACA. Advocates have argued that the President should go ever further, and give deferred action to any immigrant who has a U.S. citizen child, spouse or parent. Estimates show that expanding deferred action to the parents of DACA recipients will provide a benefit to 1-2 million people currently in the country without status. Estimates also show that if the President expands deferred action to any immigrant with a U.S. citizen, spouse, child or parent, the number of eligible immigrants could be 5-6 million more.

Opponents to both suggestions for expanding deferred action have argued that expanding deferred action to these two massive groups would undermine congressional intent, the laws of the U.S., provide a reward to those immigrants who have already broken our laws, and provide an incentive for millions more to try to illegally enter the U.S.

There are many additional arguments both for and against the President expanding deferred action. However, the best, and least likely solution to the problem is for Congress to pass a comprehensive bill, with bi-partisan support and have the President sign the law. Immigration is such and divisive, confusing and heartbreaking issue that no one party, and no one man, can or should impose their will upon the people. Until congressional leaders do their jobs by compromising and acting like adults, this problem will continue to divide families both ideologically and physically.

If you think you may qualify for DACA, or whish to seek deferred action or any other form of immigration relief, the experienced immigration attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon can help. Call use today for a consultation.