Hoping that the House of Representatives would act on immigration reform within the next two to three months, President Obama has placed his own efforts on hold including delaying the release of the results of the review on enforcement policies. Although Department of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson was instructed to continue with the review, the results would not be made public until Congress’ summer recess in August.
The White House remains optimistic that there is a narrow window for congressional action this summer and any unilateral action on its part may end any chance of a legislative compromise.
Immigrant-rights advocates are disappointed with the President’s decision to delay his efforts in easing deportation. While the President awaits House Republicans to act on immigration reform, an estimated 100,000 are likely to be deported this summer. It may be recalled that the President has been called “deporter-in-chief” with the number of deportations under his administration already exceeding 2 million.
Aside from stalling the review of enforcement policies, the White House also asked the Pentagon to put off taking any further steps on the new policy initiated by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel allowing certain undocumented young immigrants to enlist in the military.
The new policy under the existing program, Military Accessions Vital to National Interest or MAVNI, would allow certain young immigrants who were granted deferred action under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or the so-called DREAMers to join the military.
The program currently allows individuals with certain temporary visas with advanced medical skills, or who can speak certain languages, to enlist. Under the program, immigrant recruits become eligible for citizenship in as short as three months.
Many of the estimated 550,000 DREAMers clamored that they be allowed to enlist in the military. This new policy, however, is limited in scope and is available only to a narrow segment of undocumented young immigrants as they would need to have advanced medical skills or speak certain languages in order to be eligible for the program.
The bill called ENLIST Act introduced by Rep. Jeff Dunham (R-California) which also allows DREAMers to serve in the military and provides an expedited path citizenship is less restrictive. However, the bill was recently blocked by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia).
Many believe that the refusal of House Republicans to tackle even piecemeal legislation on immigration such as the ENLIST Act is a clear indication that waiting for GOP members to act on immigration reform is futile. Immigrant-rights advocates are calling for President Obama to take action and forge ahead with his immigration agenda.
Meanwhile, Cecilia Muñoz, White House domestic policy adviser said that “The president is convinced there is legislative opportunity, and that gives us the best chance to fix what is broken in our immigration system. He wants to leave no stone unturned to let the House do what it should do.”
President Obama seems to have his full faith in House Republican leaders who appear to continually find new reasons not to support immigration reform. With current efforts for easing deportation in halt, come end of August, the immigrant community expects an immigration solution – be it from Congress or the President.