Proposals from immigration advocates and business groups that would grant green cards to hundreds of thousands of illegals are among those being considered by President Barack Obama as he nears his announcement on executive action to address the issue.
"We believe that the theme for the package of changes you undertake administratively should be focused on opening the legal immigration system for more to benefit," says a letter sent by a coalition of groups led by Bruce Morrison, a former Connecticut Democratic congressman who is now a lobbyist for such groups.
Morrison's letter was reported by The Washington Post
The plans come as Obama is expected to announce action on illegal immigration in light of the crisis created by the more than 63,000 minors arrested at the U.S. border since Oct. 1. The administration estimates that more than 90,000 could be apprehended by the end of next month.
So far, more than 174,000 immigrants overall have been detained, news reports say.
Obama has dubbed the situation "a humanitarian crisis," but Republicans have blamed the deluge on the administration's lax enforcement of immigration law. They also point to reports
in Central America about policies that deferred deportation of minors brought to the United States as children by their parents.
Obama's options include expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which he created by executive order in 2012, and granting work permits to as many as 6 million illegals.
The president is expected to announce his actions after Labor Day — and he has met with advocacy groups 20 times over the past two months to seek their input, the Post reports.
White House spokesman Shawn Turner told the Post that the president "believes it's important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on this issue."
In total, the proposals the White House is considering would more than double the number of illegals allowed into the country on green cards based on employment and family issues, the Post reports.
The current global cap is 366,000, some advocacy groups have estimated to the Post. Green cards allow foreigners to live and work in the U.S.
But Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, among the many Republicans who has long been opposed to immigration reform, charged that these plans would cause much harm to millions of U.S. workers who are already seeking jobs in a recovering, sluggish economy.
"The increases in foreign workers demanded by corporate lobbyists would be in addition to the administration's plan to implement amnesty by executive fiat, providing work permits to 5 to 6 million illegal immigrants and visa overstays who will be able to take any job in any industry, public or private," Sessions told the Post.
With green cards, the law currently reserves 226,000 for family reunification and 140,000 for employment in specialized fields, according to the Post. Congress established the limits in 1990.
Advocates, however, want Obama to count only the primary cardholder in each case, which would allow other family members into the country — and that would not count against the caps.
The change would cut huge backlogs in both categories, the Post reports. More than 4.4 million illegals are waiting for green cards, according to State Department figures reported by USA Today.
But the push for the green card expansions comes as the White House remains wary of broad immigration efforts
— generally viewed as some form of amnesty by Republicans and conservatives — especially before the November congressional elections, the Post reports.
Further, laws on the green card limits remain unclear regarding family members, immigration lawyers say.
"In that situation, the courts have traditionally given the executive branch a great deal of deference in interpreting the statute and supplying the answer as long as it is reasonable," Bo Cooper, former general counsel for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, told the Post.
Cooper served from 1999 to 2003, under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
"The administration, no matter what it's doing this fall, will try to make sure it hews to its legal authority," he added. "The question is how willing they'll find themselves able to move into space that the statute gives them."
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