The last few weeks have witnessed severe shocks to the health care system known as Obamacare. The President has issued mea culpas for the not-ready-for-prime-time web site, Health.gov, and for his campaign promise to Americans that if they liked their health insurance plan, they could “keep it. Period.” Americans who’ve lost their preferred health plan have also experienced shocks, of the sticker variety, when they learn the price of replacement coverage.
Viewers of Washingtonian pratfalls who look at Beltway antics through the prism of immigration are neither surprised nor amused. There is no surprise to immigration stakeholders that a government web site intended to transform the way benefits requests are managed would fail, for we can spell “Transformation” and “ELIS” — two immigration software programs with scads of dollars spent and little tangible product to justify the pathetic bang for the buck.
We are also little amused about promises broken, like the one where a newly elected President would address comprehensive immigration reform during his first year in office. When it comes to immigration, the President’s effort might better be dubbed, IfOnlyObamaCared. To be sure, he’s tried the bully pulpit with no tangible success in the recalcitrant House.
But squawking is not PIPsqueaking — a pragmatic and tangible way for the President to grant the 11 million undocumented among us respite from deportation through expanded use of Parole-in-Place or PIP, the discretionary power of the President under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 212(d)(5)(A) to transform an unauthorized noncitizen in the U.S. into an individual with legal status.
PIPsqueaking for the undocumented is a low-decibel measure that would position the undocumented to qualify for green cards through adjustment of status in the future under any of the otherwise available family- or employment-based immigrant visa categories. All that’s required would be to grant PIP concurrently with another § 212(d)(5)(A) benefit known as “advance parole” and with the issuance of an employment authorization document or EAD. This would allow the undocumented to work and pay taxes and to travel abroad for legitimate business or personal reasons, and then after reentering the U.S. to be essentially cleansed of such prior immigration violations as entry without inspection or failure to depart when required.
A PIP/advance-parole/EAD three-step wouldn’t fix everyone’s status violations (it wouldn’t absolve those who have accepted unauthorized employment unless they are the spouse of a citizen or otherwise fall within a forgiveness provision). But it would go a long way to help the undocumented live in this country, under humane conditions, by giving them a chance to earn a living, buy a house or car, purchase insurance and care for their kids.
To its credit, the Obama Administration has approved PIP for citizens of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands whose work permits would otherwise have expired. More broadly, just last week the President’s immigration-benefits agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to its credit, issued a policy memorandum authorizing PIP benefits for the undocumented relatives (parents, spouses and children) of “active members of the U.S. Armed Services, [as well as] individuals serving in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve and individuals who have previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.” USCIS approved PIP eligibility while mindful that active and former U.S. military personnel “face stress and anxiety because of the immigration status of their family members in the United States.” Thus, the USCIS memo decreed:
Absent a criminal conviction or other serious adverse factors, parole in place would generally be an appropriate exercise of discretion for such an individual.
Certainly the children of the undocumented “face stress and anxiety because of the immigration status of their family members in the United States.” So as I’ve urged before, it’s time for the President to reclaim his mojo:
The President’s choices are clear. He. . . . can use his substantial executive authority over immigration policy and make interim changes that alter the facts on the ground. He can establish by rulemaking a registration system that allows the undocumented to come forward, be screened for criminal history and security threats, and grant them temporary work permission until Congress gets to the heavy lifting on CIR.
Had he exercised more mojo than compromise on health care, he would have instead pushed for a simpler “Medicare for all” program that would not have required entanglement and enmeshment with insurance companies that cancel policies. Nor would he have needed a highfalutin web site for Americans seeking insurance to career through the myriad choices of coverage under the new health-care exchanges.
Had he pushed on immigration reform earlier in his first term, he’d not be facing the dirge of mourners for the failure of comprehensive immigration reform today. America loves to give second chances. This is Barack Obama’s. PIPsqueak your way to immigration salvation, Mr. President.