On July 1, President Obama announced that his administration would take executive action to reform our broken immigration system, with an eye toward reducing unnecessary deportations. The changes could have far-reaching implications for millions of immigrant families who are suffering as a result of the current system.
The president’s announcement came after more than a year of the U.S. House of Representatives refusing to advance any legislation to address immigration. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill (S. 744) on June 27, 2013.
Legislation passed by Congress remains the most effective and comprehensive way to address our broken immigration system, but in the absence of legislation, President Obama can mitigate some of the problems through his constitutional power to fine-tune the details of existing laws.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights believes the following reforms must be part of any executive changes made by President Obama:
Broaden the Use of Affirmative Relief. The administration should follow the model of the 2012 “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival” (DACA) policy by defining certain groups of immigrants – such as parents of U.S. citizen children, or those with strong community or work ties here in the U.S. – who pose no threat and whose cases can be “deferred,” sparing them and their families from senseless deportations.
Reform Immigration Enforcement Policies. The administration should do more to ensure that immigration officials apply common sense in cases where immigrants do not qualify for DACA or other forms of affirmative relief. The government should do more to use “prosecutorial discretion,” where officials look carefully at individual cases and stop deportations that do not serve the public interest. And it must do more to protect human rights and prevent abuses near the border.
Promote Humane Treatment in Detention Policy. The combination of sweeping mandatory detention laws, rigid numerical quotas, and the widespread use of private, for-profit corporate jails to house immigrants have turned our deportation system into a national disgrace. The administration should increase the use of bond hearings, and it should do more under existing laws to use cheap, effective, and humane alternatives to prison-like detention conditions.
Protect the Rights of All Workers. Many immigrant workers are exploited as cheap labor, only for their employers to turn them over to immigration authorities when they stand up for fair pay or safer conditions. This hurts immigrant and native-born workers alike. The administration should swiftly move to protect immigrant workers involved in labor or civil rights disputes, and should prevent employers from using immigration policies to retaliate against workers.
Read our letter to President Obama for more details.