Contributed by Amber L. Blasingame, Associate Attorney, Colorado Springs Office
In the wake of congressional “do-nothingism,” per Rep. Luis Gutierrez, President Obama announced plans on June 30, 2014, to implement additional immigration relief within the power of the executive branch before the end of this summer. The President did not provide more specifics on his intentions. However, in April, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC or Caucus) presented a draft of a confidential memorandum to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson outlining possible options within the power of the executive branch “to end the needless separation of American families” affected by immigration enforcement. The memo, which was subsequently leaked to the media, includes suggestions both on affirmative administrative relief and immigration enforcement.
The CHC offers five possible affirmative administrative relief actions that the President could execute with the “confines of the law.” The options for relief presented in the memo include the following: (1) Expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to family members of DACA recipients who would qualify for relief per the Senate Immigration Reform Bill (S. 744); (2) Expansion of “Parole in Place” benefits to undocumented immigrants other than family members of military personnel; (3) Eligibility to adjust to permanent residence for DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients who travel and reenter on “advance parole” despite prior unlawful presence; (4) Expansion of Humanitarian Parole to immediate family members of DACA recipients and immediate relatives of US Citizens and Permanent Residents; and (5) Extending eligibility for enlistment in the military to recipients of DACA, TPS, Asylum, or Refugee Status under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program.
In addition, the CHC memorandum advises the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to modify the agency’s “policies and practices to reflect a more humane approach to immigration enforcement.” The Caucus advocates a clarification of the “extreme hardship” standard for waivers and provisional waivers of grounds of inadmissibility, such as for unlawful presence, that incorporates prior DHS decisions and memorandums. Furthermore, the Caucus proposed an expansion of the provisional waiver to spouses and children of permanent residents. On the subject of deportation proceedings, the memorandum requested a review of enforcement priorities and a refinement of prosecutorial discretion practices to provide “case-by-case use of deferred action” and adjusting the weight of positive factors over negative factors, a limitation on “deportations without hearings” which includes expedited removals at the border, and restricting detainment of immigrants to the “highest priority cases.” The CHC likewise counseled a termination of Secure Communities to improve safety, reduce racial profiling, rebuild community trust, and relieve local law enforcement of any obligation to participate in immigration enforcement programs. As a final point, the Caucus called for improvements in “short term custody” to improve the conditions and treatment of immigrants in immigration detention facilities.
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