It’s now or never.
With no hope of an immigration reform bill passing anytime soon, President Barack Obama reportedly will go on the offensive and, despite the angry opposition of Republicans on Capitol Hill, propose a unilateral overhaul of how the nation protects its borders and controls immigration.
The president is scheduled to announce the 10-point package of reforms today or early next week. Obama’s action reportedly would affect as many as 5 million undocumented workers in the country. Some 3.3 million would be affected by a single change that would allow parents of children who are U.S. citizens or are legal residents to obtain documents that would allow them to legally work in the United States.
The changes include opening new doors for immigrants who have high-tech skills, boosting pay for border patrol officers and redirecting patrol resources to the Mexico border.
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The changes also include ensuring that agencies understand that deportation is a low priority, particularly concerning undocumented workers who have strong family bonds and no clear criminal history.
It’s not the comprehensive reform the nation needs, given that there are some 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. But it may be the best the nation can hope for and expect given the GOP’s success in winning control of the Senate expanding control of the House during midterm elections.
“Before the end of the year, we’re going to take whatever lawful actions that I can take that I believe will improve the functioning of our immigration system,” Obama said during a news conference during his six-day trip to Asia. “What I’m not going to do is just wait.”
Waiting is certainly not the answer. If it were, we would have encouraged the White House to give the House more time to evaluate a reform package approved by the Senate that included a clear path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the nation.
But despite the fact that many Republicans supported the compromise package, that’s a pipe dream at this point.
In fact, Republican lawmakers in Washington angrily criticized Obama’s move, with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., warning that if Obama acts on the immigration plan before the passing of a new spending bill next month, there would be an “explosion” on Capitol Hill.
Given that similar actions taken by previous presidents have passed constitutional scrutiny, we see no validity to arguments that the president would be acting illegally. We also see no merit to the contention that doing nothing is the better option.
Washington has already done too much of that. It’s time to take a different path.
This is not exactly a path to citizenship. But at least, for many, it’s a way out of hiding and an escape from the constant fear of being separated from families. Although it’s a course lined with obstacles and political risks for Obama, it’s a road worth taking.