We have entered a new year and the bombshell announcement of President Obama regarding immigration has spun through the news cycle and exists somewhere between forgotten and a battle for another day. Let’s take a look at what went down in November. First, Republicans retain control of the House of Representative and take control of the Senate. With full power over the legislative agenda in both houses in the hands of the Republicans, immigration reform is all but dead. Then, in a startling move, predicted by many, but nowhere near a certainty, President Obama announces, pursuant to his authority over the Department of Homeland Security, he is de-prioritizing the removal of certain immigrants and granting them work authorization, travel privileges and the ability to remain in the country provided they are the parents of U.S. Citizens or parents of Legal Permanent Resident children.*
Immediately the spin monsters went into action. Republicans began by attacking the President’s authority to take unilateral action. Just as quickly, lawsuits were filed in several States seeking to enjoin the implementation of any programs that would give legal status to undocumented immigrants under the President’s re-prioritization of enforcement.
It is the opinion of this attorney that the actions taken by President Obama are within his authority as the head of the executive branch of the United States’ federal government. Moreover, any argument by the States regarding the burden placed on them is spurious. Unlike the present situation, those granted temporary legal status under what is now called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability will begin paying taxes without access to State of Federal benefits. That’s right! They will begin paying their fair share for services many they now receive for free. But, they will not gain access to any new benefit services although paying the same taxes as U.S. citizens at both the State and Federal level.
If you are interested in learning more about the legal basis of the President’s Executive Action. DHS’s Authority to Prioritize Removal of Certain Aliens Unlawfully Present takes a detailed look at the legality of the President’s short-term plan regarding immigration reform. (click on highlighted area for a copy)
*Other changes were announced, but this has the largest impact. He also announced increased funding for border enforcement, and an expansion of both Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Parole-in-Place for family members of active duty military.