Yesterday, President Obama addressed two immigration issues plaguing the nation. First, to address the influx of unaccompanied children fleeing Central American countries, President Obama requested that Congress give him more authority to send these children back to their home countries under the Nation’s expedited removal program. Ordinarily, expedited removal is reserved for “arriving aliens” (people who are attempting to enter the United States at a border or other lawful entry point and people who recently entered the United States unlawfully). They may be placed into expedited removal proceedings, but before issuing an expedited removal order, an immigration officer must determine that the person is inadmissible to the United States because he or she either:
- lied or misrepresented a material fact, including falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, in obtaining U.S. entry documents or admission, or
- does not have a valid entry document (such as a visa or border crosser card) or travel document (such as a passport).
While many people are inadmissible for one of these reasons, most of them will not be subject to expedited removal. Furthermore, if persons subject to expedited removal seek asylum, they are put in front of a judge and the credibility of fear in returning to their home country is evaluated. While President Obama’s request to extend expedited removal to children who live in these dangerous countries comes as a shock to immigration specialists and advocates as it conflicts with the fundamental humanitarian principles of both the United States and the United Nations as a whole, it is quite likely that most will seek asylum, making the expedited removal request an empty one due to the mandatory procedures discussed above.
In addition to his Congressional request, President Obama scolded his colleagues regarding their decision not to seek immigration reform this year. The president, who made immigration reform his flagship issue in his second term, thought that Republicans would comply with his demands in hopes of securing Latino votes in the upcoming election. However, House Republicans say that President Obama made negotiating nearly impossible due to his executive actions and his inflammatory rhetoric. House Speaker Boehner describes their decision not to go forward with an immigration bill as a natural reaction to the Obama administration’s decision not to enforce the laws as they currently stand. Speaker Boehner says that the House refuses to negotiate with an administration that has no respect for the rule of law. Displeased with Speaker Boehner’s decision and to further express his frustrations, President Obama reiterated the intent to use any executive branch powers he has left to change the immigration legal landscape.
Some say that he will look to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to an even broader group. Currently, the program has given a two-year deferment of any action in the realm of immigration to those who do not have status, are pursuing education, and have been continuously present since June 2007, among other requirements. However, that very act, while an unreliable promise of action yet to come, it deprives those who have legal avenues available from being able to pursue them. Current law provides ways in which deportation proceedings do not necessarily lead to deportation and give individuals an opportunity to pursue benefits made available by law. But because President Obama has all but stopped issuing Notices to Appear to those without criminal convictions, those law-abiding individuals are stranded here without any legal remedy. Congress has sought to address each individual with an individual proceeding. It is clearly not a perfect program, but until Congress can alter the law to better address current issues that plague the system in a thoughtful and bipartisan manner, the fragmented, temporary program that President Obama is continuing to offer these desperate individuals is unjust to its recipients and constitutionally inappropriate.