Citing the destruction of Superstorm Sandy, the Obama administration has waived immigration laws for illegal immigrants now in the United States, arguing that the immigrants' ability to maintain their lawful immigration status or obtain other immigration benefits may have been hampered by the deadly storm.
Through the Department of Homeland Security, the administration said "eligible individuals" may request or apply for temporary relief measures, including extensions of non-immigrant status for those in the United States even though their authorized period of admission has expired.
But Janice Kephart, a former counsel to the 9/11 commission, said that while the effects of Sandy, including death; loss of electricity and gas; and the destruction of entire communities from the water surge, was tragic, "not one of these issues pertaining to natural disaster has anything whatsoever to do with immigration or immigration benefits."
"The latest in Obama orders is just another in a long, now-expected litany of excuses to achieve amnesty, person by person, across the illegal alien community," said Ms. Kephart, who is director of national security policy at the Center for Immigration Studies. "Meanwhile, our borders remain insecure, and after decades of no Border Patrol deaths, as of last week in Texas, this administration has three law enforcement deaths on its hands. This administration is about what it can do for the illegal population, and not much else."
Tom Fitton, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law, described the decision as political, saying President Obama was attempting to protect his "core constituency of illegal aliens" on the eve of Tuesday's elections.
Mr. Fitton said the administration was using Superstorm Sandy "as an excuse to waive immigration laws capitalizing on any opportunity to grant illegal aliens amnesty." He said those getting the waivers would include those in the country illegally in violation of their student visas.
"While this outrageous storm amnesty has been ignored by the mainstream media, it's very real and largely unprecedented," he said, noting that all 19 of the al Qaeda hijackers who slammed commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon had gained entry to the United States on student visas.
"All of the September 11 hijackers lived in the U.S. with student visas and remained in the country even after they had expired," Mr. Fitton said.
Because of Superstorm Sandy, the administration also said Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will extend or re-parole those previously granted parole, expedite adjudication of off-campus employment authorization applications for students experiencing severe economic hardship, and expedite adjudication of employment authorization applications.
The agency also will provide assistance to legal permanent residents stranded overseas without immigration or travel documents, such as green cards.
"USCIS may exercise its discretion to allow for delays in filing resulting from the hurricane," the administration said.
Earlier this year, Judicial Watch said a federal audit blasted Homeland Security for taking action against only a "small portion" of the estimated 4 million to 5.5 million foreigners who overstay their visas. Investigators who conducted the probe for Congress found that the DHS unit charged with cracking down on visa violators had "competing priorities" that affected its efficiency.
"Besides further shielding those egregious visa violators from deportation, Obama's new Hurricane Sandy amnesty protects others," Mr. Fitton said. "USCIS is also extending 'non-immigrant status' for individuals, even when the request is filed after the authorization period of admission has expired. This rewards those who have blown off federal immigration laws.
"This preposterous storm amnesty is simply the latest of several moves by the administration to help illegal immigrants who in some cases have violated U.S. law for decades," he said.
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