Thursday, July 18, 2013

Childhood Arrivals: Comprehensive or Piecemeal

There has been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about the desire of U.S. House of Representatives to "hit the reset button" on immigration reform after the U.S. Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill late last month.  Political pundits have been divided between those who view the actions of the House as evidence that immigration reform is dead for the remainder of this year and those who believe that it is simply a minor delay in the process.

Rather than continue the comprehensive approach of the Senate, the House has signaled that it will tackle the matter of immigration reform piece-by-piece.  This may be good news or bad news, depending on how one looks at it.  By breaking up the proposal into parts, there may be important aspects of it, essential to our country's future, that are left behind in the debate process.  On the other hand, a piecemeal approach would allow the parts where there is general consensus to move forward in debate and possibly be approved quickly without being held back by other more controversial measures.

One of the immigration issues that has the greatest amount of political support is the question as to what to do with those who were brought illegally into the country as children.  Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner expressed his support for granting legal status to those individuals in the country.   It was also revealed that Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Representative Bob Goodlatte are actively working on crafting such a bill.  The House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings on the issue next week.

What the Cantor-Goodlatte bill will include has yet to be revealed.  However, what is clear is that the bill must build upon the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") program that was announced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last summer.   Since August 15, 2013, the DACA program has allowed over 400,000 individuals to remain in the country without the fear of deportation for a period of two years with an authorization to work which can be renewed.   While DACA has been a blessing for those that it has benefited, it is not a law and is simply a temporary measure.  Therefore, by definition, the Department of Homeland Security has the authority to end the program at any time.  The Cantor-Goodlatte bill, if approved, would be federal law.  Hence, it would provide the stability and clarity to would-be applicants that DACA fails to radiate.

On a August 18, 2012 post entitled, DACA, DREAM Act and the hope of tomorrow, this blog related the story of "Rodolfo":
"Rodolfo" graduated summa cum laude from high school. He went on to college where he excelled in his classes. His future would look bright except for the fact that he is undocumented. His parents brought him to this country illegally when he was just two years old. It was not his choice to come to this country. It was not his decision to be an illegal alien. But, these are the circumstances that he finds himself in. "Rodolfo" graduated college, once again with honors. It took him longer to finish than his classmates. The international student tuition that he had to pay limited the number of classes that he could take at one time. But, he found a way to continue his studies and persevere until he reached his goal--graduation. After college "Rodolfo" dreamed of finally putting his knowledge to work and finding lawful employment. However, he continues to be imprisoned by his reality-- he is an undocumented immigrant. On August 15, tears filled "Rodolfo's" eyes. They were not tears of joy. They were of continued frustration. "Rodolfo" turned 31 years old on May 16, 2012, one month too early to be eligible to apply for DACA. There will not be employment authorization for "Rodolfo" under DACA. He will have to continue to wait. Shouldn't a person of "Rodolfo's" caliber and education achievement have a chance to succeed in our country? For "Rodolfo" and others like him, DACA is too little, too late.
The following weeks and months will be crucial in determining whether piecemeal approach of the House works in tackling immigration reform.  If so, the first beneficiaries may be those such as "Rodolfo" who entered the U.S. as children illegally.

The above information is provided for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice or the formation of an attorney/client relationship.


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