Top Hispanic lawmakers in the Democratic Party plan to send a memo to the head of the Department of Homeland Security asking for him to use “all legal means available” to provide deportation relief to immigrants who would qualify for legal status under a stalled immigration reform bill.
The memo, from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, spells out specific policies that the Obama administration should adopt to foster “a more humane approach to immigration enforcement.”
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent published the memo on Friday, but it will be formally presented to the Department of Homeland Security on April 9.
Immigration reform negotiations in Congress withered away months ago, with Republicans in the House of Representatives unwilling to tackle legislation. That’s led supporters of reform — including those in Congress — to redirect their energies toward President Obama.
Members of the caucus make five recommendations for how the administration can better offer relief to people struggling with the immigration system.
The top suggestion is for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to widen the scope of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, which grants deportation relief to certain undocumented young people. The department should expand the program to include parents and siblings of people receiving deportation relief or who are citizens or legal permanent residents, the lawmakers said.
Another recommendation calls for the Obama administration to allow more green card applications from U.S. soil.
Under current policy, some immigrants need to leave the U.S. to apply for a green card. That includes undocumented immigrants, who may be barred from returning to the U.S. for 3 or 10 years, depending on time spent living in the country without authorization.
The lawmakers suggest Homeland Security adopt a “parole in place” policy to allow more immigrants to apply for a green card on U.S. soil. Such a program is already offered to military families.
Meanwhile, Republican immigration hawks in the House of Representatives are waging a campaign to make sure an immigration measure doesn’t find its way into an annual defense spending bill.
A report in Breitbart News earlier this week stated that Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) wanted to include language that would allow certain undocumented young people to serve in the military.
On Friday, however, the chairman of House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), said that the proposal would not be included in the defense bill.
Denham’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) slammed the idea of allowing a person living in the U.S. without authorization to serve in the armed forces.
"As soon as they raise their hand and say, 'I'm unlawfully present in the United States,' we're not going take your oath into the military, but we're going to take your deposition and we have a bus for you to Tijuana," he told Breitbart News on Wednesday. "That's the law."
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is endorsing a policy similar to the Denham-sponsored legislation that would create a way for DREAMers to serve in armed forces, but they acknowledge that the the Department of Defense does not consider undocumented immigrants in the military “vital to the national interest.”
“It is ‘vital to the national interest’ that these highly qualified, U.S.-educated young people be allowed to serve our country,” the memo reads.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.