Is this the "Etch-a-Sketch" moment or merely a change in emphasis? Romney has taken some pretty tough positions on immigration including endorsing the Arizona law, pushing for "self deportation", threatening to veto the DREAM Act, etc. To be fair, he has been consistent in supporting skilled worker immigration reform and this is what he's emphasizing now. He seems to be trying to argue that the White House is against such reform which is not entirely true. The Obama Administration has announced support for many of the same pro-legal immigration measures backed by Romney. However, they have also let the US Department of Labor, US Citizenship and Immigration Services and State Department enact one anti-immigration policy after another and while USCIS Director Mayorkas is trying to push through some needed reforms, he is getting enormous pushback from within the agency and has yet to be able to address many of the serious long term problems facing that agency.
On the other hand, one of the biggest factors affecting the future of immigration policy in this country may be having committed, skilled, strong agency leaders seeking to improve the system. For example, Director Mayorkas is probably the most effective USCIS Director I've seen in my 22 years working as an immigration lawyer (and as a 44 year old, that's half my life!). I'd encourage both President Obama and Governor Romney to do what it takes to keep Mayorkas in that position regardless of who wins the election. As for the Labor Department, Hilda Solis has basically ignored immigration and allowed her Department's offiicals to pursue protectionist, anti-business immigration policies. The State Department has been a mixed bag with real attention now being focused on how the consulates' harsh attitudes are affecting tourism in the US. But we're seeing serious problems with skilled worker visa processing at many consulates (such as India) and few indications that DOS even acknowledges a problem.
Apologies for not covering this last week, but there have been some major developments in challenging USCIS' bar on US citizens filing immigrant petitions for their lawful spouses if they are of the same gender. That bar is based on the Defense of Marriage Act which the Obama Administration admits is unconstitutional. DOMA bars any federal recognition of same sex marriages even if the state where the marriage took place has legalized such marriages.
The White House has said it doesn't believe the law is constitutional and is not defending it in court. But it has also not ordered federal agencies to ignore the law and the Republican House of Representatives has taken up the legal defense of DOMA.
Last week, five couples filed a case in a federal district court challenging the ban and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in Boston challenging the immigration bar.
The Administration may genuinely believe the courts have to act before USCIS can ignore DOMA, but it is certainly free to exercise other administration options if it wants to help these families. They can cease all deportations under the recently released prosecutorial discretion memorandum and also grant work authorization documents, something also allowed (even though there is no evidence USCIS is issuing any work cards - something that I'll address in later posts). They could also grant parole status to these spouses as well as work cards. In short, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason to deport any of these individuals unless they are inadmissible for some other reason such as a criminal history. If the White House believes DOMA is unconstitutional and the ban on green cards for same sex spouses of US citizens is un-American, they need to show us.
Steve Case was one of the key figures in the private sector who worked on the recently passed JOBS Act. He's now ready to push for a skilled worker immigration bill and thinks one might be able to pass before the November election. Reuters reports.
Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.