By Eric Gibble
Last month, we reported that House Republicans continued to justify blocking a floor vote on H.R. 15, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”, based on their perceived suspicion of the Obama administration’s ability to enforce immigration laws. This rhetoric was amplified in recent weeks in the aftermath of the announcement that the White House instructed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to review current deportation policies in order to implement them in a more humane manner.
On May 28, the administration stated they would halt review process until the end of this legislative session. With the backlash received from House Republicans in the original announcement, holding the review is considered as a political tactic to pressure on the House to act on immigration reform before the August recess.
“The president really wants to maximize the opportunity to get a permanent solution enacted, which requires Congress,” Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, told the Associated Press.
The move also coincided with a letter released from prominent pro-immigration reform groups such as the National Immigration Forum, SEIU, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The move also angered other immigrant rights groups such as America’s Voice and Reform Immigration for America. ““Now they want us to cater to the Republicans’ strategy of death-by-delay for immigration reform and continue to put our families at risk,” said Lorella Praeli of United We Dream in the New York Times.
Many immigration reform advocates believe that deportation relief could come in the form of a program similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This program has received considerable success and on May 15, it was announced that over 550,000 individuals have been approved for DACA and over 650,000 requests have been received.
Two studies on from pro and anti immigration organizations caused considerable waves in U.S. media outlets. The American Immigration Council released “No Action Taken: Lack of CBP Accountability in Responding to Complaints of Abuse”, which found that the 97% of complaints against Border and Custom Patrol agents had no action taken. Little was said by Customs and Border Patrol regarding the study, however there were calls including the New York Times Editorial Board
A fundamentally flawed study by the nativist group Center for Immigration led the House to act on one immigration measure this month. The report claimed that 36,000 criminal aliens were released from U.S. detention facilities. Representative Steve King (IA) introduced an amendment allocating $5 million to investigate these claims. The measure passed the House by a 218-193 vote.
Lawmakers are also noting the influx on unaccompanied minors that are streaming across the U.S.-Mexican border. According to reports, 60,000 children under the age of 18 will cross the border without a parent. This is up drastically from 6,000 in 2011. Legislators are still looking into the root causes of the problem before introducing legislation to address it.
“This is a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski.
In short: May was another month were little was done on the federal level pertaining to immigration legislation. However, the immigration advocates are attempting to break the impasse. There is still a chance the administration will change its deportation policies in August if Congress has not acted on immigration reform.
Eric Gibble is the Online Communications Associate at the American Immigration Council and manages the Council’s websites, social networks, and online communications strategy. Eric has a B.A. in Communication from Cabrini College, where he became passionate about the need for humane immigration policies and organized students to lobby legislators for comprehensive immigration reform.