US Catholic Faith in Real Life

What can the president do about immigration? UPDATE with good news

Father Tom Joyce CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The New York Times editorially chided President Barack Obama for not coming through with his promises of immigration reform. Understandably, he is working with a hostile Congress. Even when he got the Dream Act through the House last December, he couldn’t even get it to a vote in the Senate.

But what particularly rankled the Times was his claim in his El Paso speech that any suggestion he use what powers he has as president to administratively do something was undemocratic. “Democracy doesn't work that way,” he said.

What about the Senate non-vote on the Dream Act last December? It passed out of the House--which, of course, it would never make it out of committee--but was obstructed by antiquated Senate rules. The will of senators that represent most of the population was thwarted by senators from sparsely populated states and never came to a vote. Are the two votes from Wyoming more democratic than the two from California or New York?

The paper listed a few things he president can do--dropping Secure Communities, letting students that would have benefited by the Dream Act continue their educations unhampered, speed-up and ease the admission process to those seeking permanent residency under family reunification, and junking the faulty E-Verify process. They are all in his power. Only missing seems to be the courage of his convictions.

Meanwhile the states continue to pass repressive legislation similar to Arizona’s SB1070, adding perhaps employer sanctions okayed by the Supreme Court. The court ordered an appellate court in Philadelphia to look again at a decision that struck down a city ordinance on Hazelton, PA.

The latest and reputedly the toughest new law is from Alabama. Its new features ban undocumented students from public colleges, make school administrators and teachers check on the immigration status of public school children and their parents, and forbid knowingly renting to the undocumented. Alabama now prides itself on being No. 1 in immigration enforcement. Its business community, however, is not entirely happy with that.


Still all the news isn't bad for the immigrant. The Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to California's policy of extending in-state tuition to undocumented students who have graduated from the state's high schools. Eleven other states have similar programs, Some are conservative states—Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska.

Others, including Illinois, go a bit beyond a tuition break and are setting up voluntary scholarship programs. Undocumented student do not qualify for federal student aid. Many states have set aside Arizona-style legislation as the behest of state Chambers of Commerce. Massachusetts also joined Illinois and New York in opting out of the Secure Communities program.