Everyone seems to think that when the president outlined the actions that everything took effect immediately. Some things did, such as revisions to the removal priorities list. But the provisions on deferred action, the ones that will apply to about four million of the estimated five million people affected by Obama’s actions, won’t take effect for months.
On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sent a series of directives throughout his agency that spelled out the changes in policy and the process for implementing them. Removing the age cap on those eligible for Deferred Action for Children of Arrivals (DACA) and moving the date of eligibility is expected to help about 300,000 people who were originally left out of the 2012 program. The deadline for getting things in order for these applicants is 90 days. But for the DACA expansion that applies to the undocumented immigrant parents of American citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders), the deadline is 180 days. That’s six months just to get things in place to handle the estimated four million people expected to sign up. Processing the actual applications will take time, too. A DHS official told me Friday that 2012 DACA applications took an estimated 60 days to process. So, now we are looking at the possibility of eight months before the bulk of immigrants would enjoy the fruits of Obama’s executive actions.
Instead of using that time to seek a permanent fix to the nation’s broken immigration, Republicans are suing Obama and mewling about him acting as an emperor or king. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refuses to allow a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill that came over from the Senate on a wave of 68 votes in June 2013. But he said Obama is “damaging the presidency itself.” A more accurate observation is that by engaging in distracting theatrics, Boehner further enhances his reputation as an unreliable partner in governance.
I know. I know. Six to eight months is not a lot of time to cobble together a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would supercede Obama’s executive actions. But that’s no excuse for not trying to steal the president’s thunder on an issue that has vexed lawmakers for a generation and with a constituency that will decide presidential and off-year elections in the years ahead.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) seems to be the only person on Capitol Hill who gets this. Before sketching out a potential immigration deal to The Post’s Dana Milbank, Flake said, “Rather than poke him in the eye, I’d rather put legislation on his desk.” That’s what Obama has been calling for all along.
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