President Obama can offer de facto, albeit temporary, legalization to many of the 11 million immigrants here illegally, allowing them to work and operate normally in society as if they had lawfully entered the country.
According to Businessweek, Obama, who is considering unilateral actions in wake of the House’s rejection of immigration reform legislation he backs, could simply direct the Department of Homeland Security not to pursue the cases of those here illegally.
What’s more, Obama could grant them “deferred action” which, though it does not give them legal “status,” categorizes them as “lawfully present” and allows them to work. This is exactly what Obama did for younger immigrants who would have been subject to the “Dream Act,” which Congress refused to pass. Some 550,000 have qualified under the Obama plan.
According to Businessweek, Obama is under pressure to expand deferred action to those who would be covered under the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate but tabled by the House:
The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group, the AFL-CIO, and other immigrant advocates have urged the White House to extend deferred action—which can include authorization to work in the U.S.—to anyone who would have qualified for the “pathway to citizenship” under the terms of the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year.
That program would have covered people who’ve been in the U.S. since 2011 and don’t have serious criminal records, which accounts for about two-thirds of all undocumented immigrants. “These are people that we know are going to eventually be legalized by Congress,” says Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy for the liberal Center for American Progress, who adds that polls show a majority of Americans support the Senate bill.
It’s not clear Obama will do this, though. He’ll have to weigh how much such a move would harm Democrats in November, given that immigration reform is increasingly seen as politically harmful as illegals swarm across the border.
But this is one of the major pieces of Obama’s hoped-for legacy. And he’s amply demonstrated that he’ll do what he thinks he can administratively to implement his agenda.
It may take until after Election Day, but I wouldn’t bet against a move to cement the presence of millions of illegal immigrants in the United States, whether the border’s been secured or not. And whether Congress likes it or not.