While the 2016 presidential candidates debate immigration reform, organizations around the country are weighing in with their take on the topic in the hopes of influencing the debate. The discussion among these groups is happening in the wake of previously failed attempts to overhaul U.S. immigration policy over the past decade or so.
One organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR,) is a Washington, D.C.-based group that embraces a mission of educating and increasing public awareness of immigration issues, presenting solutions, holding elected leaders accountable for answers, and ensuring the public’s voice is heard. The organization works to move legislators to adopt “common sense limitations on immigration” and to embrace reform measures that work to enhance the public interest.
In a January USA Today editorial, FAIR president Dan Stein, argues the basic problem with previous legislative attempts at reforming immigration is that “many Americans have come to recognize that it is a policy without any definable public interest objective.” Stein calls reform elements claiming a “pathway to citizenship” simply a euphemism for amnesty and not true reform. “It simply institutionalizes the government’s failure to protect the interests of the American people, and encourages still more illegal immigration,” according to Stein’s editorial.
Stein’s editorial comes on the heels of headline-making news of immigration raids over the holiday season. The raids targeted 121 Central American immigrants who exhausted legal claims and remedies against removal.
Among legislators who expressed outrage over the raids were Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Sen. Minority leader Harry Reid. The congressmen met with Obama Administration officials as well as officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to discuss the enforcement action.
At the same time, President Obama’s executive actions to expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and to introduce Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) are stuck in judicial reviews, the result of a class-action lawsuit brought by the Texas attorney general and others.
The resulting injunction on the executive actions, which were due to go into effect in February 2015, has brought about a legal back-and-forth that could see the president’s attempted move to bypass congress heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under the DAPA program, as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants who are the parents of U.S, citizens or legal permanent residents could be shielded from the threat of deportation, allowed to obtain work permits and also eligible for some public health benefits. Proponents of the executive actions argued the delay is harmful to millions of undocumented immigrants who will remain in the shadows with constant fear of deportation, and that the social and economic benefits associated with bestowing legal status likewise remains elusive for the undocumented population as a whole.
While there’s no doubt that any move Washington lawmakers undertake toward immigration reform is received by much of the American public with high emotions, FAIR sees the discussion around the topic of reform as a good thing.
“To the extent that presidential candidates are addressing those concerns in the 2016 campaign, it is a welcome and long overdue development,” according to the group’s site.