President Obama, after avoiding our plunge off the fiscal cliff, now can focus on the rest of his domestic agenda which was laid out during the recent Presidential campaign. One of the domestic agenda items is Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The President has already made it clear that he favors laws and regulations that focus on fixing the nation’s immigration problem while addressing the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants.
First, the President used his executive authority to direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus on immigrants with criminal records and to use prosecutorial discretion to allow law-abiding undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.
Second, the President used his executive authority to publish a regulation that allows certain undocumented immigrants to apply for waivers to address unlawful presence while remaining with their families in the United States. This regulation is specficially designed to keep families together rather than separate one family member from the others for extended periods of time while they wait to consular process.
Now President Obama seems poised to tackle, once and for all, the entire immigration process. Hopefully, he will convince Congress to reconsider and revamp the Immigration and Nationality Act which was last revised in 1996. There are provisions of the existing Act that are unduly harsh to both undocumented and documented immigrants.
For instance, there are certain crimes that are designated aggravated felonies that are non-violent but nonetheless are not overcome by a waiver. There are extremely harsh penalties for minor offenses as well. An overhaul of the immigration system must include a revision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
We look forward to a bi-partisan effort in this regard.