On Nov. 8, President Barack Obama held a prime-time address from the White House announcing a plan to expand immigration laws and focus efforts on deporting what are deemed to be “high-priority” cases.
This would include criminals and gang members, or more broadly, those who are “actual threats to our society.”
There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in America according to the Washington Post. During his address, the President stated that to deport all of these immigrants “would be both impossible and contrary to our character,” and wishes to refocus efforts. The President said those who would be looked at for deportation would be “gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.”
“I think that if you’re not going to take the initiative to become a legal citizen, then whatever happens to you, happens to you,” said junior Denis Bronkar, who immigrated to the United States at age eight. “I mean, I think you can’t deport a family just because. Maybe look at, ‘oh, they are doing well, the only flaw is that they aren’t a citizen.’”
President Obama’s plan to “unilaterally change immigration laws,” as the Washington Post stated, included changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy.
One of the changes to DACA would be those who entered the United States before Jan. 1, 2010, instead of the original cutoff date of June 15, 2007, would be eligible to apply for deferred deportation for three years, instead of the original two years.
According to the Washington Post, it is expected that roughly 3.7 million immigrants would qualify to apply for deferred deportation. These immigrants are legal residents of the United States and have lived here for at least five years.
If their applications are approved, the deferment lasts for three years, just as it does for the approved DACA applicants.
“[President] Obama doesn’t want to break up families,” said Akiko Yasuike, associate professor of sociology at California Lutheran University.
In addition to expanding immigration laws, President Obama called on law-abiding immigrants, asking them to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” which these expansions should make easier for them. This call to the immigrants falls in line with President Obama’s new stance on going after the “high-priority” cases instead of those who pose no real threat to our society.
Although President Obama’s changes to the laws are claimed to be in the best interest of the United States, there are many who oppose his new plan. Of these people, the Republican Party appears to be the most determined to derail it.
According to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in an article in The Washington Post, the Republicans have been considering multiple ways in which to shut the plan down. One of these has been to file a lawsuit against the President, claiming he is abusing his executive power and “exceeding his constitutional authority.” However, a senior administration official told the Washington Post that President Obama is completely within his power to issue this executive order.
“[President] Obama gets a lot of criticism from the Republican Party saying, ‘Oh, you’re not doing enough,’” Yasuike said. “But in comparison with [former President] Bush, actually, he is the one that’s made sure that more undocumented people are going to be apprehended and deported back.”
There is still much to be decided in the case of the expansion of immigration laws, such as a change in the maximum ages for those eligible to apply for the DACA and other deferred actions, which President Obama plans to raise to an undecided age.
Currently, there is no set date as to when such things will be decided upon or when these expansions will officially take place.
Published December 10, 2014