Politics

Obama End-Runs Immigration Law Again

Admin announces unilateral executive action offering path to citizenship for thousands of migrants

The Obama administration this week launched a back-door end-run around around immigration law, expanding a program could lead to green cards for thousands of Central Americans who would not otherwise qualify.

The initiative is an extension of a program begun at the end of 2014 to address the surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America who began showing up en masse at the U.S.-Mexican border that summer. It was designed to provide a safe alternative to the dangerous trek by land for children from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras who are eligible to come to the United States legally. That would be any child with a parent living legally in the United States.

“Now, with the stroke of a pen, the Obama administration intends to circumvent statutory law at the behest of the open-borders lobbyists and extremists within the Democratic Party.”

The expansion, though, would open the doors to a broader group of people. Foreigners living in the United States on a “temporary” basis will now be able to sponsor not just minor children but those who are older than 21, and the biological parent of qualified children. And in a first-of-its-kind twist, qualified children could bring “caregivers,” who are extended relatives of the sponsor.

“Not even legal immigrants [with permanent residency status] are allowed to do that,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. “It’s such a scandalous circumvention of immigration law.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who chairs the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, blasted Obama for establishing an “extralegal chain migration system” that benefits even illegal immigrants.

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“The Immigration and Nationality Act sets forth very specific requirements and procedures through which family members may immigrate to this country, and many thousands abide by those laws and wait in line every year to do so,” he said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “Now, with the stroke of a pen, the Obama administration intends to circumvent statutory law at the behest of the open-borders lobbyists and extremists within the Democratic Party.”

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So far, the Central American Minors program has received more than 9,500 applications, according to the State Department. The expansion announced this week could increase that dramatically, according to some experts.

Vaughan said the largest group of people likely to take advantage comprises folks with “Temporary Protected Status.” This applies to foreigners allowed into the United States because of extraordinary circumstances, such as a hurricane or other natural disaster.

The program was designed to help people by relocating them to the United States and issuing documents so they can legally work.

But Vaughan said once in the United States, TPS recipients are rarely forced to return home, even long after the emergency has subsided. Some Hondurans who came after an earthquake in 1998, for instance, are still in the United States. So they remain in a limbo status — legally present and able to work but never able to obtain permanent residency or citizenship.

But Vaughan said the program announced this week could change that. The children of TPS recipients would enter through a process known as “parole.” Unlike TPS, parolees are eligible to later convert to permanent residency. And once they become permanent residents, they then can sponsor their TPS parents for permanent residency.

It is “another discretionary authority the administration has claimed for itself,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “It appears to be much more limited than it actually is.”

Vaughan said it is an abuse of the parole power, which was intended to be a rarely used tool for extraordinary humanitarian reasons, such as allowing a foreigner to come to the United States for an operation that could not be performed in his home country.

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The result of this week’s expansion is that thousands of TPS residents, who were never supposed to be in the United States on a long-term basis and otherwise have no route to green cards — even by marrying American citizens — could get a back-door path to citizenship. Vaughan estimated that there are 200,000 to 300,000 TPS residents from Central America, although it is unclear how many of them have children back home who would qualify.

“Parole is utilized almost like a magic wand by this administration to wash away past violations of immigration law or any barriers to citizenship,” she said.

How many foreigners might bypass the normal immigration system under this expanded program?

“As many as the administration thinks it can get away with,” Mehlman said. “That’s generally this administration’s MO.”

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