Immigration Reform The Time Has Come for Executive Orders

More than one year ago, on June 27. 2013, the Senate passed a compromise comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and sent it to the US House of Representatives. It has never been brought for a vote in the House despite the fact that it had enough votes to pass then and has enough now. The reasons for this unconscionable delay as so many suffer under a broken system are many, but primarily political. A group of ideologues in the Republican House have managed to keep their leadership from bringing this to a vote. Now, Republican House Speaker John Boehner has said unequivocally that the measure will not be brought up for a vote this year.

Add to that the burgeoning refugee crisis on our southern border and the failure to act amounts to Congressional malpractice. President Obama has tried to work in a bipartisan fashion, compromising too much in some ways and he believed there was a small window of opportunity this summer and, at the urging of many immigration reform advocates, he put on hold the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration enforcement reform begun in March of 2014 and designed to determine a more humane way to handle the large number of people coming into the immigration courts. Representative Luis Gutierrez, one of the most staunch reform advocates in the House, expressed dismay at this delay while calling it a “grand gesture” by the Obama administration to try to get CIR this year.

The President also asked the military to hold off on new rules that would allow DACA recipients to enlist in the military in the hope the Republican controlled House will pass CIR before the election year explodes into high gear in the fall.

More than 97,000 people will be removed from the United States between now and the end of the August recess when the review of these procedures is expected to continue. The damage to families and communities will continue while we wait. Currently, there is no procedure in place to stop removal of those who would qualify for relief under the Senate bill.

The window of opportunity here was always narrow and unilateral actions by the President could end the slim chance for CIR this year given the partisan divide in Washington. The Congress is not even able to pass an emergency measure to allow the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice to properly handle the cases presented by the most recent refuges. An already overburdened court system cannot handle the influx of cases and now, it appears, there will be no added resources.

All the “grand gestures” in the world will not change the position of Republican hardliners who control the caucus. Congress’ failure to act leaves the President with no choice but to t do what he can via Executive Order to keep families together, and prevent removal of refuges whose lives are in great danger in their home countries.