The lack of movement on immigration reform has been widely publicized lately in light of Paul Ryan’s election to Speaker of the House and the building anticipation around next year’s presidential election. It seems when there’s one step forward for immigration, there are usually a few steps back.
For instance, there is a group of Florida state legislators trying to make immigration much harder for undocumented individuals. They have proposed a series of laws that will increase penalties for immigrant criminals, cut welfare benefits for foreigners and ban sanctuary cities anywhere in the state, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Some opponents are drawing comparisons to earlier, harsh times in the country’s history.
Maria Rodriguez, the executive director for the Florida Immigration Coalition, told The Tampa Tribune that proposed legislation like this is “all too reminiscent of shameful periods of our nation’s history [regarding racism and prejudice].”
Despite all of the adversity, there are plenty of other ways that politicians are remaining active in the fight for positive immigration reform.
Trying a different approach
Despite Ryan’s public announcement that there’d be no immigration reform while Obama is president and he’s Speaker, President Obama has managed to still take steps toward positive immigration reform. The Optional Practical Training program is an immigration policy that has helped over 100,000 overseas professionals obtain temporary citizenship while they are here to work in the U.S.
The immigrants who are granted access to the U.S. under this program are all professionals, most of whom have careers that are considered more white-collar. Graduates of foreign universities can join the OPT program for one year, but those who are experts in science, technology, engineering or math can use the OPT program as a means to stay in the U.S. for up to 29 months. There’s no limit to the number of individuals who can immigrate under the OPT policy. In fact, there could be close to 200,000 people in the OPT program by the 2018 academic year, according to Breitbart.
Governors can’t trump the president
In the wake of all of the debates surrounding this hot topic, many governors have publicly announced that they will refuse to accept immigrants into their states, including those from Texas and Louisiana, which have stated refusals to allow Syrian refugees into their jurisdictions. The governors holding Syrian refugees out of their states have a direct impact on immigration policies at the state level.
“The supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution,” former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black explained in the decision in Hines v. Davidowitz handed down in 1941. “States do not get to overrule the federal government on matters such as [immigration policy].” This case is considered a relevant one to immigration experts, according to ThinkProgress.org.
Although the president’s executive order has gotten a lot of pushback legally, he still is in a position of power over state leaders when it comes to matters of immigration. So while no massive reform is likely to happen under this White House regime, undocumented immigrants should rest a little easier knowing that the commander in chief of this country is in their corner.