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I recently had the opportunity to participate in a discussion with several immigration attorneys from across the county concerning whether the policies of the Obama Administration had been in the best interest of the Latino and immigrant communities. I was taken aback at the level of vitriol that was unleashed by my colleagues at President Obama. A prominent immigration lawyer and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association even went so far as to say that President Obama had been a “disaster for the Hispanic community.” While, I, too wish the Obama Administration would have pushed much harder for the Dream Act or some form of Legislative Reform prior to 2010 I think many fail to notice the significant movement to the right of the Republican party on immigration issues and the difficulties this has caused for the Obama Administration’s agenda on Immigration. One need only look as far as the legislation enacted in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama over the past couple years to see a Republican approach to immigration reform. One can only imagine what devastating impact that would have on our country if implemented on a federal scale.

The Morton Memo

More to the point, the Obama Administration has recently been taking very creative steps in attempting to help immigrants subject to removal. The Morton memo was basically forced down DHS’s throat by the Obama Administration and the subsequent use of prosecutorial discretion has helped many and will continue to help many more non-criminal aliens. The Administration’s recent clarification of the use of detainers (only after a conviction) is also a tremendous change in enforcement. Most recently, the Administration’s use of rule making authority to attempt to change the adjudication of waivers to allow for an initial domestic determination is another significant step. Of course, the one glaring item that has not been accomplished is any sort of pro-immigrant reform. Some of my colleagues believe that a Republican President may be more pro-immigrant despite the fact there is no evidence whatsoever to support that theory. Although the Dream Act previously garnered wide bipartisan support, its most recent incantation received almost unanimous opposition from Republicans, including those who had previously been co-sponsors such as Senator McCain. Mitt Romney has come out squarely opposed to the Dream Act (let alone any more significant pro-immigrant reform) and fully supports the Arizona anti-immigration law.

Let’s be clear, I understand and appreciate the frustration with the state of immigration law in our country. Too many days I come home from the office and hug my children feeling incredibly lucky that they and I did not have the misfortune of having to endure the absurd laws that threaten to split apart so many of my clients’ families. But President Obama (as well as the vast majority of Democrats in the Senate) has been steadfast in his support of both the Dream Act and comprehensive pro-immigrant reform. It is frustrating that it has not yet been achieved but let’s put the blame where it belongs — on the overwhelming majority of Republicans who are unwilling to consider any form of pro-immigrant reform even for those who would benefit from the Dream Act. The Republicans in Congress have continued to obstruct any legislation that is even slightly pro-immigrant and their presumptive nominee is an avowed opponent of the Dream Act. The Republicans are not hiding the ball here — they have made their position on immigration abundantly clear.

Speak to an Experienced Orlando Immigration Attorney

I certainly appreciate the frustration with the lack of progress on immigration issues. The Obama Administration is rightly criticized for waiting too long to push reform and to enact the current executive reforms (PD and the like) that are finally having some impact. However, it must be recognized that the Obama Administration is in a difficult position in handling immigration enforcement. Cecilia Munoz, Director of White House Domestic Policy Council (and the former VP of La Raza) recently stated that “the President can’t say to the Congress, ‘I’m not going to bother to enforce this particular law because these are really compelling people.’ That’s not how democracy works.” The fact of the matter is that under the law of our land these individuals who should not be removeable — are. Its only through programs like prosecutorial discretion and the proposed policy allowing domestic adjudication of waiver requests that some creative flexibility around the law of the land has been created. I think he deserves some credit for that.

Rusten Hurd

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