I hesitate to criticize the Obama Administration’s immigration reform measures, having urged long ago that half a loaf, at least for now, will perforce suffice.
Hastily announced but untimely in manifestation, the slew of executive half-measures the President’s team has lately proposed to improve the functioning of America’s broken immigration system seem reminiscent more of vaporware than tangible solutions.
With less than a year to go on his term, executive orders and departmental or agency press releases are spewing forth as if from a Gatling gun.
Will these concepts really make a difference? Or are they merely pheromones to attract progressive, young or Hispanic voters in November?
Consider how much has been said but so little done:
- Prosecutorial Discretion is announced as a measure to spare low-level immigration violators and slam dangerous foreign felons. So far the record deportations continue almost unabated and the few granted PD are permitted to remain at the pleasure of the President but without deferred action and its benefit of work permission.
- Stateside waiver processing for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens whose hardship can be proven as extreme is revealed in a seemingly humanitarian Notice of Intent and an FAQ. But no rules or procedures have yet been published, and the risk of death-by-visa-waiting remains as high as ever.
- An interdepartmental push to improve visa processing and promote tourism is inscribed in an Executive Order, with special focus on increased consular officers in Brazil and China. Still, nothing is said about tourists and business visitors from India whose rupees are as easily converted to dollars and spent in our malls. Worse yet, no reforms are made by the State Department that would moderate consular absolutism and encourage visa officers — by amendment of the Foreign Affairs Manual — to extend a welcome mat more often to foreign visitors with lucre to spend.
- A DHS grab bag of small measures are announced with the goal “to retain highly skilled workers.” These ethereal proposals will likely affect only a tiny slice of the job-creating nonimmigrant population. The list of unrealized hopes includes a nebulous assemblage of H-4 dependents married to H-1B workers “who have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment after meeting a minimum period of H-1B status in the U.S.” It also makes note of the leisurely first convening on February 22 of an “Information Summit [at an undisclosed location] in Silicon Valley, CA [where is that? I can't find the city on my California map], that will bring together high-level representatives from the entrepreneurial community, academia, and federal government agencies [first announced on August 2 of last year as step one of the Entrepreneurs in Residence program] to discuss how to maximize current immigration laws’ potential to attract foreign entrepreneurial talent.”
Desultory blather and high-falutin’ promises will not jumpstart job creation. Deeds not words — published forms, specific eligibility criteria and actual procedures to request new benefits — are what real administrative reforms require.
There are many bold steps that could be taken to improve our dysfunctional system even while Congress remains comatose. Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta suggest a Presidential tweak in the interpretation of green-card counting procedures that would eliminate backlogs and do far more than merely granting spousal work permission “to retain highly skilled workers” (“Why We Can’t Wait: How President Obama Can Erase Immigrant Visa Backlogs with the Stroke of A Pen“). Other proposals have been offered in this blog (“Executive Craftsmanship: Job Creation through Existing Immigration Laws,” “The Immigration Appeaser-in-Chief Should Try Some New Ammunition” and “Immigration Reform with the Stroke of a Pen“).
When it comes to executive action on immigration, the nation needs a profile in courage not a silhouette of timidity. The first Tuesday in November is fast approaching. Time waits for no President.