AILA: President Obama’s Use of His Legal Authority Can Fix Broken Elements of the Immigration System

Thursday, November 20, 2014

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

This is an important first step, but it's up to Congress to take further action

Washington, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomed the President's announcement tonight offering his planned administrative action to ameliorate some of the damage done by our broken immigration system in the absence of Congressional action.

AILA President Leslie Holman commented, "Are we happy that the President finally acted after months of delays? Absolutely. The actions he has taken will indeed offer relief that takes into account the need to boost businesses, keep families together, and alleviate some of the daily tragedies our broken system engenders.

"I am proud that our President stepped up to make these fixes. I'm proud that he turned away from the naysayers, from the critics, and made good on his promise. Our immigration system is a broken mess. I know this because I deal with it every single day. My clients deal with it every single day. Congress should be ashamed that instead of doing its job, and passing comprehensive reform, they have done nothing to help the situation. So today, instead of working with the President and passing important legislation, they are stuck repeating the same meaningless talking points and desperately trying to throw up obstacles to his leadership. How sad.

"Of course critics will say he is going beyond his authority, but as an immigration lawyer of 15 years, I see no basis for that. And there's precedent: Presidents from both parties going back decades have taken similar steps, including President Bush, Sr. who gave blanket deferral of enforcement in 1990 to 40% of the undocumented population at the time.

"This a stopgap measure. It's not comprehensive, and it's not permanent. Yes, this will help a lot of families, but it also leaves a lot of families out in the cold. It aids some businesses, but leaves many still reeling from irrational adjudications that don't follow previous policy. It does nothing to end family detention which goes against our own laws and international obligations.

"The devil is in the details though and there are a lot of details left unknown at the moment," concluded Ms. Holman.

The President's plan as described today includes:

  • Deferred Action for the parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children who fit the eligibility requirements.
  • Expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to remove the age cap and move the continuous presence date up to January 1, 2010. DACA will now be granted for 3 years (including those with pending renewal applications).
  • Replacement of the controversial Secure Communities program with a "Priority Enforcement Program" program the details of which are still unclear.
  • Ensuring that job-creating entrepreneurs have legal means to enter and operate in the U.S.
  • Increasing access for university affiliated businesses to key talent.
  • Allowing spouses and children of lawful permanent residents to apply for unlawful presence waivers from within the U.S. and ensuring appropriate standards for adjudicating those waivers.
  • Enabling families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces to utilize parole in place to ensure legal status.
  • Changing the procedures for adjustment of status to allow legal immigrants caught in the immigration quota backlogs to register their applications and thus begin the final step of the process.
  • Directing agencies to look at modernizing the visa system, with a view to making optimal use of the numbers of visa available under law.
  • Announcement of a new border security campaign and plan.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 14112061.