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Lawmaker blasts 'bloviating' members' attack on 'parole in place'

As we discussed on this blog earlier this week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has just implemented an extraordinary new policy at the direction of. Using its existing authority to “parole” immigrants at its own discretion, the agency will grant legal status to all unauthorized-immigrant spouses, children and parents of active-duty or prior U.S. service members who apply and who have no other bar to residency.

The program, called “parole in place,” is an annual, temporary grant of full legal status. Better yet, each year of parole counts toward the time of legal residence in the U.S. required before immigrants can seek adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency and eventual U.S. citizenship.

As with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, the Obama Administration claims parole in place is fully authorized under existing law. Both policies rely on the executive branch’s authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion, which means choosing when to take legal action -- and when not to.

The executive branch indisputably has such discretion, yet this unusual exercise of it is quite controversial. Traditionally, prosecutorial discretion been exercised only with careful consideration of the legislature’s intent behind the law. With Congress deadlocked, its intent isn’t clear. Surely, the president essentially argues, it cannot be to allow clear and widespread injustices to continue.

These two family immigration policies, along with other discretionary-enforcement actions in drug enforcement and other areas, have resulted in sharp criticism by some members of Congress. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “the president’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws,” meant to condemn Mr. Obama for exceeding his authority.

One member, however, excoriated the committee and Congress in general. Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois accused the committee of “bloviating and not legislating” in the face of policies urgently in need of change. The broken immigration system has already resulted in two million deportations, devastated families and harmed the nation -- yet two-thirds of Americans support immigration reform, he says.

He hammered the committee on the urgent reality of inaction on family immigration and deportation reform, quoting a father who recently approached the Congressman for help:

“Find my papers,” pleaded the man. “Don’t let my deportation widow my wife or orphan my children.  My children will remember who treated their parents badly and will punish them with their votes.  But right now, I need my papers.”

Source: Hispanically Speaking News, "Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL)- 'Immigration: You Cannot Do Nothing,'” Dec. 3, 2013

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