Memo outlines backdoor ‘amnesty’ plan

Immigration staffers cite tools available without reform

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With Congress gridlocked on an immigration bill, the Obama administration is considering using a back door to stop deporting many illegal immigrants - what a draft government memo said could be “a non-legislative version of amnesty.”

The memo, addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas and written by four agency staffers, lists tools it says the administration has to “reduce the threat of removal” for many illegal immigrants who have run afoul of immigration authorities.

“In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, USCIS can extend benefits and/or protections to many individuals and groups by issuing new guidance and regulations, exercising discretion with regard to parole-in-place, deferred action and the issuance of Notices to Appear,” the staffers wrote in the memo, which was obtained by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.

The memo suggests that in-depth discussions have occurred on how to keep many illegal immigrants in the country, which would be at least a temporary alternative to the proposals Democrats in Congress have made to legalize illegal immigrants.

Chris Bentley, a USCIS spokesman, said drafting the memo doesn’t mean the agency has embraced the policy and “nobody should mistake deliberation and exchange of ideas for final decisions.”

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“As a matter of good government, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will discuss just about every issue that comes within the purview of the immigration system,” he said in an e-mail statement. “We continue to maintain that comprehensive bipartisan legislation, coupled with smart, effective enforcement, is the only solution to our nation’s immigration challenges.”

He said the Homeland Security Department “will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population.”

The memo does talk about targeting specific groups of illegal immigrants.

Mr. Grassley said it confirms his fears that the administration is trying an end-run around Congress.

“This memo gives credence to our concerns that the administration will go to great lengths to circumvent Congress and unilaterally execute a backdoor amnesty plan,” Mr. Grassley said.

The memo acknowledges some of the tools could be costly and might even require asking Congress for more money.

At one point, the authors acknowledge that widespread use of “deferred action” - or using prosecutorial discretion not to deport someone - would be “a non-legislative version of ‘amnesty.’ “

The authors noted several options for deferred action, including targeting it to students who would be covered by the DREAM Act, a bill that’s been introduced in Congress.

In testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 11, Mr. Mayorkas first said he was unaware of discussions to use these kinds of tools on a categorical basis, then later clarified that officials had talked about expanding the use of those powers.

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