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July 29, 2014 8:29 AM Obama’s Immigration Options

By Ed Kilgore

TPM’s Erica Werner has a good overview today of the options the president is considering with respect to executive action on immigration—not the short-term problem of current and recent refugees from Central America, but the bigger problem of “the 11 million,” the undocumented people currently living in the country. Her account makes it clear the White House is actively discussing prospective actions with a wide range of likely supporters, and may well act before the November midterm elections:

Advocates and lawmakers who were in separate meetings Friday said that administration officials are weighing a range of options including reforms to the deportation system and ways to grant relief from deportation to targeted populations in the country, likely by expanding Obama’s two-year-old directive that granted work permits to certain immigrants brought here illegally as youths. That program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has been extended to more than 500,000 immigrants so far.
Advocates would like to see deferred action made available to anyone who would have been eligible for eventual citizenship under a comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed last year, which would be around 9 million people. But Obama told them in a meeting a month ago to “right-size” expectations, even as he pledged to be aggressive in steps he does take.
That’s led advocates to focus on other populations Obama might address, including parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizen children (around 3.8 million people as of 2009, according to an analysis by Pew Research’s Hispanic Trends Project) and parents or legal guardians of DACA recipients (perhaps 500,000 to 1 million people, according to the Fair Immigration Reform Movement)….
Another focus could be the potentially hundreds of thousands of people who might be eligible for green cards today if current law didn’t require them to leave the country for 10 years before applying for one.

Obama might as well act as broadly from the get-go as he ultimately intends, since Republicans will go completely nuts on him for any executive action on immigration, and add it to the list of tyrannical “abuses of power” that merit impeachment.

It is interesting, however, to contrast the current environment with the one that preceded DACA. The earlier action essentially preempted a Republican initiative, reportedly designed by Marco Rubio as something Mitt Romney could embrace to heal the wounds caused by his primary-season talk of encouraging “self-deportation.” No matter what Obama decides to do to expand “legalization” of the undocumented, even if it’s a very narrow initiative, will far exceed anything under serious discussion by Republicans, most of whom have been getting in touch with their inner nativists of late.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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