5695109By Jeremy B. Love, Immigration Attorney
August 15, 2014

President Obama announced that he plans to act on immigration by the end of summer if Congress still refuses to do so.  Obama has met with his advisors who have no doubt informed him of a multitude of options he could choose.

While the president could not enact a sweeping comprehensive immigration reform without Congress, there are several options that could help millions of undocumented immigrants in obtaining lawful status in the US.

What options could Obama take without Congress on immigration reform?

Deferred Action for Other Undocumented Immigrants
Due to the success of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Obama could help millions by deferring action to anyone who would have been eligible for immigration reform under the 2013 Senate Bill. 

The requirements under the Senate bill include continuous presence in the US since 2012 and no serious criminal history.  Such an action would have allowed approximately 8 million immigrants to obtain protection from deportation and employment authorization.

Expanding the Existing DACA program
While over 650,000 young immigrants have been able to obtain DACA status and employment authorization, many more could benefit by expanding the program to immediate family members.

Allowing spouses of DACA recipients, who are not eligible on their own, or providing the opportunity for parents of minor children to obtain DACA would lead to many more benefitting from the program.  To preserve family unity, providing DACA to immediate family members is essential.

Removing Restrictions on the Guest Worker Program
The current process for obtaining an agricultural worker visa is arduous and complicated, but removing restrictions and simplifying the process would allow companies to hire many more workers.

Revising the guest worker program would also help businesses and immigrants in other seasonal businesses such as hotel and hospitality jobs.

Resist Speeding Up Deportation of Unaccompanied Minors
Obama has been put under a lot of pressure to reduce the number of unaccompanied minors being housed by the federal government.  He should resist the temptation to fast-track the deportation by circumventing the 2008 anti-trafficking law.

A more humanitarian solution would be to insure that unaccompanied children are better advised of their immigration options so that they may be released to a sponsor and file for permanent residence as Special Immigrant Juveniles.

While there remains some momentum for comprehensive immigration reform, Obama may act without Congress to help millions of undocumented immigrants.  He’s certainly not lacking in choices as he mulls over the issue.