Lawmakers from both sides are pushing President Barack Obama on immigration, with advocates pressuring him to use his executive powers to stop deportations and opponents arguing the administration has overstepped its powers and immigrants should be sent back to their homelands.
On Tuesday, legal scholars outlined executive action they'd like to see: expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows some immigrants who came into the country illegally as children, also known as "DREAMers" to stay and work, reports The Hill
Republicans and other critics say the program, adopted in 2012, was a prime example of the Obama administration overstepping its power.
Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel for the Homeland Security Department's Citizenship and Immigration Services branch, told The Hill that there is "no serious legal question" about Obama having the authority to use deferred action when it comes to prioritizing resources, because Congress has not given him many other options.
"When Congress knowingly gives DHS only enough resources to go after a tiny percentage of the undocumented population, then obviously Congress intended for the administration to formulate priorities. It has no choice," Legomsky said. "That's what deferred action does. It prioritizes finite resources."
Obama also has the authority to help provide jobs for people waiting for green cards, which could make it easier for students to remain in the United States, said the experts. And he can expand the federal "parole in place" program that allows U.S. citizens' relatives who are in the country illegally to seek permanent residency without having to be deported first.
"Discretion — the president's ability to make decisions based on enforcement priorities — is all over the immigration statute. In fact, you wouldn't be able to enforce the immigration statute without the ability to decide what are our priorities," said David Leopold, former head of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "There's really no legal argument, no reasonable legal argument, against it."
Expanding DACA would create a "security nightmare," said Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, adding that the expansions could increase the risk of terror attacks.
Another Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, said the act has attracted thousands of unaccompanied migrant children to the nation's southern border, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday
wrote to Obama to warn that unilateral action on the president's part will kill bipartisan immigration reform.
Obama's action on immigration, while expected, hasn't yet happened, and "nobody seems to know either the what or the when," an unnamed Democratic aide told The Hill on Tuesday.
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