After the beating Democrats took in the latest election, many expected President Barack Obama to take a step back from his pledge to issue an executive order on immigration reform. However, all signs indicate he intends to keep to his latest promise and issue an order by the end of the year. Deportation deferral may be right around the corner, and the swift stroke of a pen may result in creating a safe haven for millions of immigrants here in the U.S.
An executive order on extending deferred deportation could look similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Former Homeland Security Secretary and Arizona Governor from 2003 to 2009, Janet Napolitano announced the DACA directive in 2012. While Napolitano has not speculated on what an executive order might look like, the DACA program provides a good framework for extending deportation deferral for others.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is considering a couple of options in determining how far to extend deferred deportation. This includes the length of time the person has been in the country, and the extent of family ties to the U.S. The article cites one source suggesting granting deportation protection to people in the country for at least 10 years. However, how far the family ties must extend to the country is not clear.
The parents of U.S. citizens would likely qualify for the new criteria. Some immigrants married to U.S. citizens may also qualify. A bigger question is whether the parents of the so-called “Dreamers” would qualify. Dreamers are the children brought to the U.S. as children, who qualify for deferral under DACA. Extending relief to these parents could affect millions of immigrants.
The final executive order could affect as many as 5 million immigrants, granting relief from the ever present worry of being taken away from their families and life in the U.S. to be deported to a land they left long ago. The White House cautions against too much speculation, calling it premature to rely on estimated action which may not come until the end of the year.
However, the Department of Homeland Security recently confirmed that a new contract proposal was produced to purchase card stock for at least 5 million work permits and residency identification cards per year for the next 5 years. Again, the president's administration cautions against making assumptions based on this contract. Prior to this contract proposal, the U.S. was producing only about 3 million “green cards” annually. This contract would increase the possible number of immigrant permits by an additional 67%.
Republicans remain harshly critical of any executive action taken by the president on the issue of immigration. Most consider extending deferred action to be a form of amnesty. While the party is split, the majority of Republicans are against creating a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants residing here in the U.S. A recent poll finds Republican support for the idea at 19% with 68% opposed.
Even though Republicans now hold the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, division within the party on the issue of immigration may again stall any progress. Still, party leaders argue that presidential action alone would be a highly divisive political move.