On Monday, June 30th, President Obama held an impromptu press conference where he announced he was tired of waiting for Congress to take action on immigration reform, and that he was planning to move forward with changes on his own.
President Obama hasn’t laid out any specifics at that press conference, but I have a few ideas what may be on his mind.
But, first, to clarify, only Congress has the ability to make law. The President, no matter how much he would like to, cannot create new law on his own. What he can do, though, is tell his Cabinet how to enforce the law, prioritize the law, and make changes to policy. Think of it as a road map. Only Congress can tell us where we’re going, but President Obama can tell us how to get there.
Extend Parole in Place to all immigrants with immediate family members.
Right now, Parole in Place is primarily used for military families, but it could be used for anyone who has one (1) undocumented entry to the United States and has an immediate family member (spouse, parent, or minor child).
The granting of Parole in Place would allow the foreign national to apply for a green card inside the United States instead of having to go through the process of applying for a waiver and going back home for a visa interview.
This change can save years on the legalization process, save filing fees, and alleviate a tremendous burden on families who would otherwise be forced apart.
Make changes to Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
TPS is very similar to DACA. When granted, it allows someone to stay in the United States with work authorization. TPS is exclusively designed for people from the countries of El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. (Read more about TPS countries.)
Currently, TPS grantees are stuck in TPS status. There is no path to a green card. If President Obama allowed TPS grantees to apply for a green card, hundreds of thousands could have their status stabilized.
In addition, TPS does not allow for derivatives. This means that if a person is granted TPS, his or her children do not get any benefit. The child would have to come to the U.S. and apply on their own. Rumor is that many of the children who have entered the U.S. recently along our southern border have parents in the U.S. with TPS status. If those children could be granted TPS along with their parents, it would help solve two problems at once.
Lower the standard for Extreme and Exceptional and Unusual Hardship.
In many different types of immigration applications where the foreign national has done something wrong, he or she has to demonstrate that a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent (and sometimes child) would suffer extreme hardship if the foreign national weren’t allowed to return to or remain in the United States.
There is no definition of what extreme or exceptional and usual hardship looks like. In general, though, the applicant has to show more than just the “regular” hardships of forcing a family apart such as the financial burden of losing one income, the emotional impact of losing a parent or spouse, or the great cultural shock upon relocation.
In the twisted world of immigration, the sadder the story, the stronger the case. For example, a family where a child has leukemia or where the U.S. citizen spouse is suicidal makes for a strong waiver (hardship) case. But we shouldn’t want such a horrible set of facts for our clients.
One way to grant more cases and stabilize the immigration status of thousands is to have hardship automatically presumed when there are minor children involved or if the foreign national spouse is the primary earner in the home. Granting more waivers will ease the immigration burden on countless families.
There are many, many more ideas floating around besides the three areas I just highlighted. Immigration attorneys all have their list of ideas they’d like to see implemented. The ones I’ve detailed above are three that I think could help the most people in the shortest amount of time. But, until we hear more from President Obama, what happens next is anyone’s guess.