Obama’s Action on Immigration Should Broaden Use of Affirmative Relief

Categories: Immigration, News

Saying that “America cannot wait forever for [Congress] to act,” President Obama on June 30 announced that his administration would take executive action to reform the current, broken immigration system, charging Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder with moving resources to the border and identifying – before the end of the summer – additional actions that his administration can take.

Since administrative changes could have far-reaching implications for millions of immigrant families, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is calling on the president to include certain reforms in any action he takes – starting with a broader use of affirmative relief.

The administration should follow the model of a 2012 policy called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival,” or DACA, and define certain groups of immigrants – like parents of U.S. citizen children, or those with strong community or work ties in the United States – who pose no threat, who are law-abiding, and whose cases can be deferred. Defining these groups of immigrants would spare them and their families from senseless deportations.

Obama has come under fire for his removal of more than two million immigrants since he took office in 2009. According to some reports, his executive action this summer could suspend the deportation of 550,000 to 4.4 million immigrants, depending on which groups to whom he extends protections.

And if immigrants do face deportation, it should not be the result of racial, ethnic, or national origin profiling. Department of Justice (DOJ) profiling guidance – released in 2003 and still unrevised – contains massive exceptions for national security and border integrity that do far more harm than good. Hundreds of civil rights, human rights, immigrant rights, and faith-based organizations have been urging DOJ for years to revise it by closing the loopholes and expand the prohibition to ban profiling based on national origin and religion.

Obama’s announcement on June 30 came more than a year after the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill (S. 744), which House leadership has refused to bring up for a vote. More than a month earlier, The Leadership Conference sent a letter to Obama outlining steps he should take on his own regardless of the Senate bill’s fate in the House.

This is the first in a series of four articles detailing what The Leadership Conference wants to see in President Obama’s executive action on immigration, due out later this summer.