DACA Update and Things to Come?

statue_of_liberty_with_extract_of_poem_by_emma_lazarus_fixed

Earlier this week, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published its updated performance statistics for the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  The data is published through June 2014 and therefore covers almost a solid two years of data since DACA applications first could be filed in August 2012.  The performance data can be reviewed in its entirety here:

USCIS DACA Stats through to mid year 2014.

Of some note, the data reflects that nearly 581,000 DACA approvals have been issued since August 2012.  Nearly 24,000 DACA denials have been issued during the same time period.

While 581,000 may seem like a fairly large number indicating a successful program, this number actually falls significantly short of the nearly 937,000 immediately eligible individuals estimated at the announcement of the program in July 2012.  See the below analysis by Rob Paral prepared for the American Immigration Council / Immigration Policy Center.

 7.31.2012 IPC Article on Who and Where the Dreamer DA Cases Are

In the meantime, The Hill newspaper reported yesterday that Obama is facing extreme pressure from immigration reform groups to move forward on an expanded prosecutorial discretion program – one which would benefit a much broader class of individuals.  Of course, the President is also facing fierce push back from the Republicans on the right.

The Hill article quotes our own Professor Legomsky of Washington University School of Law who is back on the faculty after serving two years as Chief Counsel to USCIS then director, Mayorkas.  As Chief Counsel, Professor Legomsky was truly in the USCIS inner circle and had a significant hand in guiding the formulation of the USCIS Policy Memorandum that eventually resulted in the DACA program.

The Hill article can be downloaded here:

8.26.2014 The Hill-obama-pressed

To understand the current debate over any expanded executive action which may or may not occur this year, it is very important to realize that what is being considered is purely an exercise of the President’s discretion to decide where and where not to expend the very limited resources appropriated by the Congress to enforce the immigration law.

By the way, this discretion is actually a well established constitutionally protected prerogative of the Executive branch of the federal government rooted in the separation of powers doctrine. On many past occasions, the Supreme Court has explained that if the Executive did not have the power of prosecutorial discretion, the Congress would be too easily enabled to move from writing the law into meddling with the enforcement of the law.  The constitution unequivocally delegates the power to write laws to Congress but the power to execute the law to the Executive.

Since it is well established that there are in excess of 11 million undocumented individuals currently in the United States and the Congress only appropriates each year enough money to remove approximately 400,000 people a year (including removals of new arrivals at the boarder, not just folks already living in the interior United States), the President is left with no option but to prioritize where and how removal resources should be expended.

Importantly, this reality we find ourselves in is entirely of the Congress’ own creation by its complete failure to address comprehensive immigration reform, the blind insistence by some Congressional members that immigration law be enforced to the maximum extent possible all coupled with the Congress’ refusal to budget anywhere near the money necessary to do so.  It’s a classic example the child stomping his feet and demanding to have all the goodies but not wanting to pay for them.

Consequently, the President is left to a triage approach to immigration enforcement.  Under these conditions, it is simply common sense that the President must prioritize enforcement and focus the very limited enforcement resources available to him on the folks who pose the gravest threat to our communities such as those convicted of violent felony crimes.  Meanwhile, the undocumented immigrants technically subject to removal but who work, pay taxes, go to church, raise their children, cook our food, clean our houses, mow our yards (i.e. the VAST MAJORITY of the undocumented immigrants in our communities) will certainly end up being given a pass. Same old rule applies Congress, you get what you pay for.

The upshot to all this is that our communities will actually be better for it.

Stay tuned, Autumn will be interesting even after the elections.