Indications that the Obama administration is planning to unveil a 10-part immigration reform plan that would be carried out via executive action is drawing praise from groups that want more leniency for undocumented immigrants, and condemnation from others that say the president is circumventing the law.
Sources close to the White House told Fox News Thursday that President Obama is moving on a plan that contains 10 initiatives that span everything from boosting border security to improving pay for immigration officers. The most controversial, however, is a part that calls for suspending deportations for millions.
"We are urging the President to go big and bold and White House senior officials have assured our Caucus that the President will announce executive actions before the end of the holiday season,” said Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in a statement to Fox News Latino. “It is important to remember that though the President will act, ultimately, it is only Congress that can fix our nation's broken immigration system in a permanent manner."
The caucus has pressed Obama to curtail deportations, which reached a record under his tenure, and to provide relief to millions of undocumented immigrants the lawmakers say should get a chance to legalize their status.
Proponents of strict immigration enforcement say an executive order on immigration, particularly one that, they argue, calls for giving a break to people who have broken the law, is unconstitutional.
"Although it remains to be seen exactly what the president will do,” said John Malcolm, Director of Heritage's Meese Legal Center, “based on published reports it appears likely that under the guise of a benign sounding name -- “deferred action” – President Obama will, once more, effectively grant amnesty to many people who are in this country illegally, ignore valid immigration laws that have been passed by Congress and signed by his predecessors.”
Malcolm added that Obama also would be failing “to fulfill his constitutional duty under Article II, section 3 to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’ This should not be countenanced in a system premised on being a government of laws, not men."
Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors strict immigration measures, characterized the president’s 10-part plan as troubling on multiple levels.
“This kind of reckless power grab cannot go unchallenged,” Stein said to Fox News Latino. “It’s an interim move in which he’s going to add 4.5 million more people [to deferred action status]. He’ll probably do millions more in another 12 months. He’s establishing anarchy in our immigration program.”
Stein said that deferred action, which in immigration law was to be used in a very limited fashion, and on a case by case basis, is being stretched far beyond what is feasible and prudent.
“This administration is taking what is supposed to be individualized, and unique and occasional, and turning it into the rule to apply to a whole class of people,” Stein said. “Where does it end? Congress should defund it. President Obama is destroying any ability to work with the next Congress.”
The plan calls for expanding deferred action for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children – but also for the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. That could benefit some 4.5 million undocumented adults with U.S.-born children to stay, according to estimates, reported Fox News.
People who received deferred action are spared deportation for a determined period of time, and receive work authorization in the United States, Social Security numbers and government-issued IDs.
Some advocates for more lenient immigration policies say are taking a wait-and-see approach, after so many undelivered promises by Obama to address immigration in a meaningful way.
“Right now the tone is one of guarded optimism: the White House has sent out a lot of controlled, official ‘leaks’ as test balloons before,” said Ryan Campbell, communications director for DRMActionCoalition.org, which advocates for undocumented youth. “Certainly, offering status to those like the parents of citizens is the low-hanging fruit, and something that would get less backlash than a broader relief for a greater part of the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants we have today that have little to no chance of ever adjusting their status. We hope, however, his relief will be broader, such as including the families of non-citizen DREAMers who have been in the country for a long time.”
In June 2012, Obama created such a program for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, entered before June 2007 and were under 31 as of June 2012. The change would expand that to cover anyone who entered before they were 16, and change the cut-off from June 2007 to Jan. 1, 2010. This is estimated to make nearly 300,000 undocumented immigrants eligible.
“If the President acts boldly and with courage on robust executive action that provides deportation relief to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, Latinos will have his back,” said Presente Action Executive Director Arturo Carmona. “If not, Latinos are fully willing to flee the Democratic Party in the same way we have fled the Republican Party.”