Should We Reign in Expectations for Immigration Reform?

Credit: Evan Finn.
Credit: Evan Finn.

After a year and a half of work on immigration reform, many Long Islanders are rightfully wondering if there is a chance for any action on the issue at all this year. The answer is, “Yes,” but it is one highly qualified with a sense of diminished expectations.

It was only a year ago that the Senate was on the verge of passing sweeping immigration reform with the support of many in both parties. Well, that sweeping reform will not happen before the end of this year. Anti-immigrant forces in the House of Representatives have essentially killed it. That does not mean, however, that no legislation can pass this year. It is possible that after the June Republican primaries wrap up that there will at least be an attempt by some conservatives to introduce a very limited immigration bill.

In the meantime, immigrant groups are turning to President Barack Obama to use his authority as president to slow the record pace of deportations. Obama has said that he will not take action until August to allow the Republicans time to do something. But in the meantime more than 1,000 deportations are taking place each day. Many national and nearly all local immigrant organizations are calling for Obama to act now.

Supporters of immigration reform have to remember that the president’s power to act without Congress is not unlimited. He cannot simply order a permanent halt to deportations or unilaterally implement immigration reform. But he can end the Secure Communities program that links local police to immigration enforcement and he can identify groups of undocumented immigrants as subjects of protection from deportation.

Obama should move quickly to use his power for these changes. This may force Congress to act before it gets left behind.