Last week, Congress failed to pass legislation to protect children and families seeking refuge in the United States before heading home for August recess.
The Senate’s bill from June 2013 to fix our broken immigration system has yet to be considered by the House of Representatives. Now, all eyes turn to President Obama as he has announced pending executive actions to help immigrants and their families. Many are speculating about the breadth of these actions and wondering how many men, women, and children they will affect. We have scoured the media coverage and reflected on what we have heard in Washington, D.C. to provide an update about what’s allegedly being considered within the White House and how it would impact the lives of newcomers.
President Obama originally established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 to allow “DREAMers” — young people who were brought to the United States as children, attended American high schools, and are currently undocumented — to stay without fear of deportation. DACA recipients are also given legal authorization to work in the United States. Thus far, 660,000 young people — 55% of the 1.2 million who were believed to be eligible for the program — have taken advantage of it.
Deferred action is a type of prosecutorial discretion that grants relief from deportation on a case-by-case basis. Many advocates have speculated that President Obama may act to extend deferred action to different groups of adult migrants, including undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children or parents of current DACA recipients. This expansion of deportation relief would potentially affect 3-5 million parents currently at risk of being separated from their families.
Others speculate that President Obama may expand deportation relief based on a person’s ties to their community or their employment in industries such as farming. Others still argue that President Obama could expand deferred action to the 6-9 million people who would have qualified for immigration relief under the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Although we at LIRS are encouraged that some action on immigration is imminent, we know that deferred action is only a temporary fix — it is entirely revocable and does not lead to citizenship or permanent immigration status in the United States. While the President determines what action he will take, his Administration continues to detain and deport vulnerable children and families to Central America without access to adequate legal protection and representation.
We will keep you updated as we learn more about possible executive action this summer. In the meantime, Members of Congress need to hear that people of faith support just and compassionate treatment for all people fleeing violence and seeking safety in the United States. You can use LIRS’s August Congressional Recess Advocacy Guide 2014 as a resource for meeting with your Members of Congress and ensuring that your voice is heard.