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November 01, 2014

ABA president: Obama immigration action one step, permanent legislation still needed

ABA President William C. Hubbard said Nov. 21 that the ABA believes that President Obama’s executive action on immigration is “one step toward a better functioning, more realistic and humane system, but strongly calls for a more comprehensive and permanent legislative solution.”

Saying that the country’s immigration policy is broken, Hubbard said that “Congress and the administration need to come together on this issue to produce long-term, fair legislation that deals humanely and realistically in revising our immigration process and addressing the problem of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country.”

The ABA, which backed provisions in comprehensive legislation passed by the Senate in June 2013, supports legal immigration based on family reunification and employment skills, due process safeguards in immigration and asylum adjudications, and judicial review of such decisions. The House passed several separate bills last year.

Frustrated by the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama announced a series of executive actions that will grant protection from deportation to up to five million undocumented immigrants. Those eligible for protection include parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who have been in the country for at least five years. The deferral of deportations would be granted for three years at a time and include work authorization.

The president also unveiled plans to expand the existing Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, which he established by executive order in 2012 to allow those who came to the United States as children or young adults to stay temporarily in the country if they meet certain criteria.

The plans also call for a surge of resources for border security and will reinforce prosecutorial authority focusing on those who threaten national security and public safety.

Reaction was swift on Capitol Hill, where House Speaker John Boehner  (R-Ohio) vowed to push back against the president’s plans and questioned the constitutionality of addressing immigration reform through executive order. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the president has chosen an action that ignores the law and that the path to get this done is through Congress.

As the president and Congress debate the issues, Hubbard said the ABA will continue to support programs that train and mentor pro bono attorneys to provide legal representation in immigration proceedings. In addition, he said that the association recently launched the Immigrant Child Advocacy Network, a comprehensive website providing information and resources for volunteer attorneys, advocates, policymakers and journalists.

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