Obama Admin Plans More Executive Action on Immigration

Elizabeth Harrington, Washington Free Beacon, July 22, 2015

The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to expand a waiver program that will allow additional illegal aliens to remain in the country rather than apply for legal status from abroad.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a proposed rule on Tuesday that would make changes to a waiver program created by President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration in 2013. The action created a waiver that primarily allowed illegal immigrants with a U.S. citizen spouse or parent to stay in the country instead of having to leave the United States and be barred from returning for three or 10 years, if they proved their absence would create an “extreme hardship” for their spouse.

The new rule expands eligibility to a host of other categories of illegal immigrants beyond those with citizen spouses and parents.

“DHS proposes to expand the class of aliens who may be eligible for a provisional waiver beyond immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to aliens in all statutorily eligible immigrant visa categories,” the proposed rule stated. “Such aliens include family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, certain special immigrants, and Diversity Visa program selectees, together with their derivative spouses and children.”

The waivers allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country while they await visas, and avoid a penalty under U.S. law that bars persons who entered the country illegally from returning for at least three years.

An illegal immigrant who lives in the country for less than a year and then leaves is barred from reentering the United States for three years. Any time spent illegally in the United States over one year results in the illegal immigrant being inadmissible for 10 years. The waiver program allowed individuals to remain in the country and avoid these penalties.

“It’s a very bad policy,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. “It makes it possible for illegal aliens to avoid the consequences established by Congress to deter people from settling here illegally and then laundering their status by adjusting to a green card.”

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The rule would also broaden the category of those whom an illegal alien can claim their absence from the United States would create an “extreme hardship.” Previously, the waiver only could be given if the illegal immigrant has a spouse or parent who is an American citizen.

“DHS also proposes to expand who may be considered a qualifying relative for purposes of the extreme hardship determination to include [legal permanent resident] LPR spouses and parents,” the proposed rule said.

The agency said the rule is intended to “prioritize the family reunification of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens over other categories of aliens.”

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