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Immigration Policy in an Obama Second Term

President Says He'll Try Again To Get Comprehensive Reform, DREAM Act


What's likely to happen with immigration policy in a second term for President Obama? He hopes that a better working relationship with Congress becomes possible, and with it also comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act...

Another Attempt at Comprehensive Reform

President Obama wants the DREAM Act. Photo:Getty Images

During an interview on Univision News in September, President Obama called his inability to reform immigration “my biggest failure so far.”

"What I confess I did not expect, and so I'm happy to take responsibility for being naive here, is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform -- my opponent in 2008, who had been a champion of it and who attended these meeting -- suddenly would walk away," Obama said. "That's what I did not anticipate."

The president’s 2008 opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, did a 180 on reform, voting against the DREAM Act in 20120, after working with Democrats on it and other measures in 2007.

Obama has said he hopes that partisan fires cool enough after the election to allow reform to go forward. He continues to support a plan that would allow a path to legal residency for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, if they clear background checks, learn English and pay taxes and fees.

The president acknowledges that he promised to get immigration reform in his first year, but economic fears made that impossible. “My first priority was making sure we didn’t fall into a depression,” he said on Univision.

Passing the DREAM Act

President Obama has supported the DREAM Act to assist the 1.7 million children of illegal immigrants since his first days in office.

For a time, there was also some bipartisan support in Congress, too. But the nasty fight over budgets and health care claimed the DREAM Act as a casualty and immigration reform got pushed to the back burner, and then all the way off the stove.

If Obama wins reelection, the political climate in Washington might soften enough to allow immigration reforms to move forward. At least, Obama and the DREAMers hope so.

Ending the 'Deferred Action' Program

Yes, President Obama really would love to end the deferred action plan he offered to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. That’s because he would love to replace it with the DREAM Act, which gives those childhood arrivals permanent protection and opportunities that are enshrined in U.S. law.

Because the president created deferred action through an executive order, it can be rescinded by future presidents. Young immigrants can reapply for deferred action protection every two years as it stands now. Replacing it with the DREAM Act is about No. 1 on the list of the president’s immigration priorities for a second term.

More Legal Challenges to States That Write Immigration Laws

The Obama administration has been very consistent in opposing states who write immigration laws that are modeled after Arizona’s groundbreaking SB 1070.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has made his intentions clear that any state that gets into the business of immigration lawmaking is trespassing on federal constitutional territory. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Obama administration when it found that three provisions of the Arizona law were unconstitutional. The justices did uphold, however, one of the most controversial measures, the so-called “show me your papers” provision. Indiana and South Carolina have decided their immigration laws were unenforceable because of the Supreme Court decision.

Going forward, President Obama will continue the constitutional fight against states going where he believes they don’t belong.

High Deportation Numbers Likely To Continue

As the U.S. economy warms up, more workers south of the border are likely to try to enter illegally and look for employment as the job market improves.

This suggests that deportation numbers will remain high. Many Americans are unaware of the fact that, under the Obama administration, U.S. deportations reached record levels in fiscal year 2011, with more than 400,000 people deported. Then they plunged dramatically.

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